Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #191
Number of Views: One
Release Date: 28 January 2014 (USA)
Sub-Genre: Survival Horror
Country of Origin: Canada
Running Time: 90 minutes
Director: Cody Calahan
Producer: Chad Archibald, Cody Calahan
Screenplay: Chad Archibald, Cody Calahan
Special Effects: Jeff Derushie
Cinematography: Jeff Maher
Score: Steph Copeland
Editing: Chad Archibald, Cody Calahan
Studios: Black Fawn Films, Breakthrough Entertainment
Distributors: Anchor Bay Entertainment, Monster Pictures, Breaking Glass Pictures
Stars: Michelle Mylett, Cody Ray Thompson, Adam Christie, Ana Alic, Romaine Waite, Ry Barrett, Eitan Shalmon, Laurel Brandes, Kate Vokral, Charlie Hamilton, Colin Murphy
Suggested Audio Candy
Valentina Monetta “The Social Network Song”
It may surprise you to learn that I’m not actually a fan of social networking sites. I know that may seem somewhat hypocritical given that I use them daily and have a presence on both Twitter and Facebook but, love them or loathe them, they’re a necessary evil with regards to promoting your work. Other than that one special purpose however, they leave me stone cold. I used to have my own Facebook account before I started writing under a pseudonym but scrapped it at the first opportunity and haven’t looked back once since. Let’s not get it twisted, they have their advantages outside of business and it is a way of staying connected with those you may otherwise lose contact with. That said, there is normally a good reason why we drift apart in the first place.
I’ve watched headache after headache arise as a direct result of living your entire life under the watchful eye of anyone who has your personal details. Things are inevitably misinterpreted, relationships dissipate and people tend to do their dirty laundry in the least private manner imaginable. It is all too easy for correspondence to be totally misconstrued and easier still for employers to catch you with your pants down and balls cupped should you be taking a day off from work unannounced. Regardless of this, I continue to reluctantly feed the monkey but only because I consider it such a necessary evil. The fact that I do so through gritted teeth suggests that films such as Antisocial should be right up my street.
After Michael J. Gallagher’s so-so slasher Smiley taught us of the perils on online chat rooms, Cody Calahan’s Antisocial tells largely the same tale albeit in a totally different manner. It warns of the Red Room, an all singing and dancing social media application which seems to come at a rather exclusive and perilous cost. Set entirely in one evening, New Year’s Eve, it focuses on a small group of bloggers who watch a worldwide epidemic spread before their eyes as all users turn into ravenous raging walkers à la 28 Days Later and commence clearing up any remaining stragglers. You know the shit is hitting the fan when a 911 call takes you straight to answering machine and the penny drops for the teens as they attempt to make it through the night in one piece.
There is something fundamentally wrong with Antisocial which left me colder than Ice Man’s wanking hand and it is omnipresent right from the opening scene. It somehow fails in drawing you in despite its cool premise and it is hard to put your finger on what exactly is so broken about Calahan’s effort – it just is. There is scope for a tense who-can-you-trust thriller akin to The Thing but we always receive prior warning of who is likely to turn and this siphons any sense of tension from proceedings, making it very much a by-the-numbers affair. Given the scope at its disposal, that feels mighty wasteful.
Criminology student Sam (Michelle Mylett) arrives having been unceremoniously ousted by her duplicitous boyfriend, over video chat no less, and seeks the shoulder of Mark, Jed, Steve and Kaitlin. No sooner has she taken off her jacket than news breaks of the global pandemic and everything outside the house turns to shit. All five actors are fine in their roles but still I found myself cringing as I watched on. This is unusual as they barely put a foot wrong but, after further consideration, I have deduced that the reason why their reactions seem out-of-place is that we, the audience, haven’t invested and it comes across as over-reaction. I would assume that, at the time of shooting, they had no inkling as to the integrity of the final product as some things just come out in the wash.
I’m going to pull the reins in a little now as I don’t wish to start an Antisocial hate room. Film is entirely subjective and Calahan’s film plays to its demographic unabashedly. The needle for me is that the idea behind it is so ripened, hidden code programmed into the application makes logical sense and yet it never really takes full advantage of this scenario. On certain levels it does enough and I am left in no doubt that Calahan’s film will have its fans. Alas, for me, it left a rather hollow impression.
There is a dash of splatter on the platter but it is never particularly imposing. Despite this, it does escalate during the final act and the bloodletting is handled well by one-man-army Jeff Derushie throughout. Calahan and fellow screenwriter Chad Archibald have adopted an exclusive alternating ethos to their working relationship and thus, Archibald will be next in the director’s chair. Despite Antisocial not resonating with me on a personal level, I would be intrigued to see any subsequent fruit from their collective loins and see nothing here which couldn’t be ironed out with a little TLC.
Modern technology clearly has a lot to answer for. I’m an eighties child so vinyl crackle is conspicuous in its absence on MP3 format and I will never download a movie that I can support by shelling out the readies. Social networking continues to serve its purpose and I’m not a Techno-Nazi by any stretch, but it’s ultimately all a little soulless and no substitute for looking another in the whites of their eyes when you LOL. Unfortunately with all things considered and ninety minutes poorer on the clock, that is the feeling I am left with when it comes to Antisocial – not enough.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 6/10
Grue Factor: 3/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: As aforementioned there are flashes of red, blackened slicks at least, and the final fifteen features an effective bout of reluctant self-surgery via scalpel and handheld drill which teases just enough to cause a cringe or two. The fact that the special effects team consists of one man conveys that grue is not the primary intention.
Read The Thing (1982) Appraisal
Read The Thing (2011) Appraisal
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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