Monday, November 27, 2023

I Got a Bad Case of the Zoomies


Not surprisingly, the first film to debut during the COVID-19 lockdown specifically addressing the issue was a horror movie. Historically, the genre has always been first in any cinematic race of social commentary, and today's technology makes it even easier for a style that thrives on low budget to succeed. 

Host didn't do much for me, mostly because I thought the same story had been told better in the Unfriended series. Also, its success meant we'd get more of this style. 


Quick Plot: A batch of late twentysomething pals meet up for their regular Zoom parties, this time to celebrate the birthday of the awful Evan. Almost all seven of our main characters are pretty terrible, but Evan, as we will soon see, is both toxic AND stupid. 

The somewhat less awful Ollie has surprised his pals with a dose of molly carefully delivered by no-contact FedEx. Here's where we learn that indeed, they're all the worst.

It's 2023 (in this case, a fictional 2022 where COVID has mutated to even deadlier strains the country is under strict police state law) but as far as I know, we stopped pushing drugs on people with the '90s D.A.R.E. program. One of the gang (patent lawyer Ben, a newer member of the jerk club) doesn't like to do drugs. WHICH IS FINE. So what do his boyfriend and the five other pals do? 

I'm supposed to LIKE these people? Please understand, I have nothing against drugs. I have a LOT against people who FORCE their friends into taking them when they clearly explain that they're uncomfortable doing so. 

Because I don't hate these characters enough, they proceed to play Never Have I Ever (again, FINE) but pause for Ollie and his girlfriend to go have sex (HOW OLD ARE THESE PEOPLE?) and for Evan to flip out when his girlfriend Jen reveals a sexual escapade from high school that he didn't know about. This was apparently 15 years ago, 10 years before she knew him, but he is AGHAST at the fact that she once slept with two different guys in one day. 

Run, Jen. Run.

Too late. They argue, Evan flails his arms out in such a way that Jen flies back and smashes her head on a hard desk. Everybody on Zoom happened to be looking away at the time (either having sex or arguing because THESE PEOPLE ARE AWFUL) so no one quite knows what happened, but since Jen isn't breathing, the natural response is for Evan to get the hell out of there.

I feel like there are other options here.

Granted, before you, like every sane human being, scream "CALL AN AMBULANCE", I will remind you that this is a slightly more dystopian present than the one we're in now. It's muddy, but I'll accept Safer At Home's reality that hospitals are overwhelmed and anything non-COVID-related might not be acknowledged. Plus, did I mention these idiots are all high on molly?

So, Evan runs, perfectly stable selfie stick guiding us the whole way. Ollie heads out to help, and everyone else worriedly watches from their couches. There's a twist ending that most functioning adults on or off molly will guess, particularly if you've seen director Will Wenick's Follow Me. 

Like most of the internet, I hated this movie. Zoom-based thrillers only work if your cast can pull it off, and this one...doesn't. They're hampered by dialogue that rotates between bland and painful, and a narrative that hurts the brain of any thinking adult. The ending would be offensive if it wasn't, well, so stupid. 

I guess that's my way of being nice to this movie?

High Points
Hey, as with Host, I respect the idea of using video calls to craft a narrative, and Safer At Home at least has some fresh ideas in centering on a manhunt in a darker timeline (if only, you know, it worked)

Low Points
As if this film needed another reason to make you groan, it's bookended by real news footage of Donald Trump giving press conferences about the pandemic he mishandled. Nobody needs that. 

Lessons Learned
Safer At Home succeeds in one very specific arena: it teaches anyone who lasts its 85 minute runtime that drugs will indeed impair your brain activity.

I can't think of anyone I know that I would have their life improved by watching Safer At Home. I'll leave it at that. 

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