Directed by Alessandro Antonaci, Stefano Mandala, Daniel Lascar
Written by Alessandro Antonaci, Stefano Mandala, Daniel Lascar
Starring Erica Landolfi, Carola Cudemo, Simone Valentino
Everyone’s screen time percentage is probably way up during the last couple of months, but after watching You Die it may be a good idea to put your phone down altogether. You may still be addicted to Soda Crush but what if that new app update was actually dangerous? The latest entry in the tech horror craze comes to us from Italy but the setup still feels familiar. Yes, the dark web is involved at some point and there is a ticking clock leading to your death but You Die does ask an interesting question: Is what you’re seeing actually happening or is it real because you decided it’s real?
Emphasizing the IT in It Follows, the plot of You Die employs augmented reality to digitally haunt any user who downloads the titular app that allows the dead to be connected to the world of the living. David Robert Mitchell’s influence is felt here, mainly in how the dead slowly stalk their targets and in the idea that you can transfer the curse to someone else. After inexplicably lending her phone to a complete stranger, Asia (Erica Landolfi) finds the downloaded app and notices a 24-hour countdown running. Through the viewfinder, she begins to see ghosts that begin to become more aggressive as the hours roll by. Asia happens to love horror movies, so maybe she’s better equipped to handle the pressure and defeat the app. Sadly, that’s not the case at all and she quickly starts to unravel.
Missing an opportunity for a deeper story perhaps, all of the spirits that are terrorizing Asia and a few others are completely random: A lanky man with a hammer in the subway; An elderly man pointing to a more menacing elderly woman; A little girl in an old dress. There’s no history behind the ghost characters and no connection to the people they’re stalking. They’re just part of a virus that ultimately turns the user into a virus, too. There are some creepy moments, mostly in confined spaces, and the phone screen effect is used successfully, but there’s only so much menace in a pale, undead hand reaching through your phone. The horror is really in the anticipation of dying, not what happens when you’re actually killed.
You Die eventually asks a simple question about basic humanity: Will you accept your fate and only harm yourself OR will you download a killer app on someone else’s device in order to postpone your inevitable death? Kind of a false choice, huh? You either let the monster win or become the monster yourself. In this way, You Die is kind of like last year’s Countdown mixed with Richard Kelly’s The Box. While that story is based on “Button, Button” from the ’80s reboot of The Twilight Zone, this feels more like an Italian telenovela version of Black Mirror.
While there is some good acting here (especially by Erica Landolfi) and a few scares, the ghostly atmosphere and false dread brought on by the countdown element just don’t amount to enough of a reason to stay off your phone for good. While definitely in need of an upgrade, there is still enough on the screen to keep you occupied, however.
You Die is available on Digital and DVD on May 12th from Dark Sky Films.
Get the app, then die. Watch the movie, then shrug. Then, look at your phone suspiciously.