Written and directed by Mike Boss
Anonymous 616 could be course study in a class or clinic devoted to filmmakers looking to make a big impression on a small budget. Basically, it fits the early Blumhouse model: Anonymous 616 utilizes a single location and a small cast; it’s driven by compelling characters and a knock-out story, emphasizing substance over style. At the same time, skillful camerawork and a solid understanding of important techniques give this micro-budget production a professional aesthetic. Barring a single instance of an outdated morphing effect, it could go straight to big screens; a rarity that could find company with films like The Blair Witch Project and the first Paranormal Activity.
Since Anonymous 616 is based on a very straightforward premise with a crucial turning-point, I’m hesitant to reveal any plot points beyond the film’s official synopsis as revealed on IMDb: “A reunion between two couples becomes a massacre when one of the guests meets an anonymous person online and willingly becomes a participant on a bloody path to becoming God-like.”
The opening will remind well-viewed genre fans of films like The Invitation and Coherence. Like these examples, Anonymous 616 is set at a dinner party amongst a diverse assortment of friends with connections both solid and tenuous; there’s a smattering of cultural background along with subtle differences in economic standings and social status. It seems like the kind of common gatherings we’ve all attended, but there’s a dark undercurrent from the get-go—along with dualities and juxtapositions hinting at potentially explosive combinations.
The film hinges on the actors portraying complex and compelling characters with emotional legitimacy—and these aren’t easy roles to play. That’s why no review of Anonymous 616 would be complete without giving due praise to the film’s 4 leads: Jessica Boss, Lena Roma, David Abramsky, and Daniel Felix de Weldon. These may not be full-time actors with name recognition, but all deliver performances that are nothing short of professional. Many micro-budgets suffer from using actors they can afford as opposed to thespians who can truly deliver. This cast delivers. Bella Shepard also excels in a supporting yet integral role.
Anonymous 616 has a 2nd Act twist that produces a potential telescoping of reality, one that caused this reviewer to question everything. The story of a misunderstanding with fatal consequences, or perhaps an episode of PTSD, seem like easy subterfuge for hidden subtexts that lead straight into The Matrix (metaphorically speaking). It’s open-ended enough for inquisitive minds to detect everything from supernatural intrusions to MK-Ultra level experimentations. Anonymous 616 becomes a petri-dish for germinating conversations about the root causes of war, not to mention the devastating power of paranoia and its combustibility when paired with extreme narcissism (and alcohol). While the filmmaker’s intentions are clear, it doesn’t disallow for creative interpretations; if anything, it rewards them.
Anonymous 616 offers the kind of genuine, psychological suspense that will appeal to fans of They Look Like People and the Creep movies. It’s anchored by a crackling script filled with stories within stories, not unlike Reservoir Dogs or Bullet Head (a recent favorite of mine). And despite the small budget, Anonymous 616 delivers serious substance with enough gore to please a fan of torture porn (without thoroughly alienating fans of character-driven horror cinema).
Besides the previously-mentioned outdated morphing effect, Anonymous 616 leaves little to criticize in terms of serious impediments to its delivery. As for constructive criticism, were the film picked up for re-release by a bigger studio with distribution, for example, I’d recommend looking for a more compelling title as Anonymous 616 barely hints at the most compelling aspects of the film. It highlights the techno-terror aspect, but this is more a plot motivator than an exploration of technology like Unfriended or Chain Letter. I’d also trim the climactic exposition by at least 60%. While Pastor Warren, played by Myles Cranford, is a compelling and effective last-minute arrival, I’m certain that viewers who make it to the end will already suspect what’s “really” going on; the citing of specific Biblical passages doesn’t add anything at this stage of the story.
Anonymous 616 will be best enjoyed by fans of slow-burn, character-driven storytelling with an appreciation for (and an understanding of) the nature of micro-budget films. In this case, especially, cheap doesn’t equal fake or ineffective by any measure, and it never suffers from a lack of recognizable names and faces. Anonymous 616 won’t appeal to a lot of people, especially those thrilled by jump-scares and crazy special FX, along with those looking for monsters or specters, phantoms or Cenobites. It’s drama first, extreme horror second, but intelligent and skillfully textured throughout.
Anonymous 616 is available to watch now on Amazon; CLICK HERE.
If you’re a fan of micro-budget, character-driven genre offerings like The Invitation and They Look Like People, chances are, you’ll enjoy this one as well. As opposed to those films, however, Anonymous 616 offers a hefty dose of extreme horror with elements of torture porn, bravely venturing into some truly dark territories. Not for the easily-triggered and definite not for the kiddies.