Sunday, February 28, 2021
Entertainment

Shook review – stalk-and-slash horror with social media angle | Film

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Shook opens with a smart satirical visual gag. It reveals the cast of characters, a bunch of female online influencers who pimp out various products, arriving at a swanky event, complete with popping flashbulbs. An edit from another angle shows not all is as it seems, which pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the film: a thriller in the stalk-and-slash tradition but one that keeps pulling the rug out from under the viewer’s expectations.

After the first gory bit of wrong-footing (literally, it involves a shoe as weapon), blonde beauty specialist Mia (Daisye Tutor) emerges as the main protagonist. After she arrives at her family home in the suburbs to watch cute lapdog Chico for her sister Nicole (Emily Goss) for a few days, it gradually becomes clear that Mia and Nicole’s mother died not so long ago, and that the two sisters have a rancorous relationship, mostly because passive-aggressive Nicole resents flighty, irresponsible Mia for not helping out more when their mother was dying. Seemingly surgically attached to her smartphone, Mia streams updates to her fans, and checks in with other friends across town who keep asking her to come over and party with them. But then the neighbour from across the street (Grant Rosenmeyer) reaches out via text and call, and it becomes clear that he might be a suspect in a string of dog and people murders in the area.

Once the danger is established, writer-director Jennifer Harrington gets to work deploying jump scares and reveals that are strictly off-the-shelf generic scary stuff. What makes this a little more interesting is the whole social media/home-surveillance angle, which creates certain interesting challenges to demonstrate what’s going on in different places. Harrington uses simple projections on the scenery to show what’s happening in Mia’s phone; later, there are Zoom-style split-screens with multiple characters watching numbly as horror unfolds.

It’s all very 2021, and you can’t help wondering how it will age, but as a launching pad for the director and her cast, it’s a very serviceable platform. Tutor is particularly good at looking terrified, and manages to make the vapid, narcissistic Mia just sympathetic enough that you don’t necessarily want to see her, or cute widdle Chico, get killed.

• Released on 18 February on Shudder.



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