Monday, May 16, 2016

Kids Today & Their Darned Hashbrowns

When a movie scrolls through Instant Watch with a title like #Horror, my expectations are not high. While many of the recent social media-themed genre flicks have proven to be quite good, this one...well, this one is titled #Horror.

Never judge a movie by its titular characters.

Quick Plot: A gaggle of 12 year old girls are having a slumber party hosted by the richest and blondest of the bunch, Sofia. Sofia's father is a modern art dealer who has furnished his unique mansion with an assortment of odd pieces, including gloriously flaky wife Chloe Sevigny.

Permission to be cool has been granted.

The house itself is also a piece of modern art history, having hosted a murder spree by a Andy Warhol protogee in the '60s. Naturally, it seems to be repeating its past as a mysterious killer starts taking out some of the wealthy visitors, constantly posting crime scene photos on some kind of Candy Crush-hued social media site.

That description probably makes #Horror sound like just about 85% of the movies currently streaming on Netflix Instant right now, but boy is it not. More Heathers than Hell Night, #Horror's interests lie in the dynamics of preteen female frenemyship, not a masked killer making his mark. Writer/director Tara Subkoff clearly remembers what it was like to be 12, that dangerous age where the desire to be cool could easily slaughter one’s sense of right and wrong.

This is also where many a typical horror fan may well despise #Horror. Subkoff spends more time watching the chaotic, catty interactions of its young cast trying on clothes and taking selfies than being slaughtered. A fair warning to those viewers who only watch these kinds of films for the bloodshed: you’ll probably be disappointed. For the rest of us, this is a neat, neat little flick.

Granted, I’m someone who has always been fascinated by that terrible period of teenage girldom. It’s why I was such a fan of the underrated The Sisterhood of Night, and why I’m generally always more open to any story that puts middle school females at its center. For those who were never there, being a 12 year old girl, well, pretty much sucks. Your body is changing and you can’t decide if it’s happening too fast or too slow. Boys become an entire school subject on their own. Worst of all, your friends can go from the people you trust most to the spies willing to sell you out for a better seat at the cafeteria.

Guys, don’t worry: I’m now 34 years old and happily over the horrors of the seventh grade. Then again, my generation of Tomagochi raising Generation Y-ers was still using shaky dial-up internet connections. Facebook was far, far away. Thank goodness.

In 2016, the life of a tween is different. #Horror tosses in a great deal of class wars for added measure, and while it could be alienating for many an audience member, the poor little rich girl trick works here (and not just because it gives us tons of interior design porn). There’s a genuinely real moment when the girls put away their cell phones and have what might be their first human conversation with each other, discussing their various demons (neglectful parents, eating disorders, etc.) in an honest, realistic way. Again, I doubt many a casual Netflix scroller wants that out of something sold as a slasher, but if you’re open to it, it’s well-written, well-acted, and much-needed.

High Points
Not to sound like a broken record about the value of seeing more female directors in the horror industry, but Subkoff more than supports that cry. This is a film so clearly made by a very distinct voice, and while not all of it works, it's genuinely refreshing to feel Subkoff's energy onscreen

Low Points
One character is teased to have quite a complex history, and in part because that history involves Natasha Lyonne, it's a minor quibble that we don't get more of it

Lessons Learned
A joke is only mean if the audience doesn’t laugh

Fat people exist to be funny

Eating a lot of chicken may bring on early menstruation

#Horror is almost more pop art than straightforward genre, and I for one have no problem with that. Most viewers will probably know within the first 10 minutes whether this is right for them. If you find it insufferable early on, bail out and pull up something else. There are hundreds of standard And Then There Were None-style gorefests made for the typical horror audience. For the random minority like me who always want to see a story told from a different angle, this is a treat.


  1. Damn straight - you and I are really in the minority in sticking up for this one. I had mixed feelings (though the pop-ups and endless sound effects got old really fast) but the weird tangents (Tim Matheson's mid-movie bulllying tangent, drunkenly raving at these poor girls) and the overall Sparkle Motion-cum-Trip Fontaine style dreaminess and fly on the wall girls of the flies style bitchiness more than made up for it