Directed by Eugene Kotlyarenko
Written by Gene McHugh, Eugene Kotlyarenko
Starring Joe Keery, Sasheer Zamata, Mischa Barton and David Arquette
In this tawdry social media age, is it possible to become an internet legend overnight? Instagram Live anomalies like D-Nice show the positive side of connecting on a mass scale but Canadian cat killer Luka Magnotta reflects the unstable minds that crave attention – and they’ll do anything to get it. It’s actually surprising that something like Eugene Kotlyarenko’s breakneck thrill ride Spree hasn’t happened before IRL. If a live streamed killing spree came across your feed, would you turn it off and report it or would you comment and follow along? Don’t worry, if you hit the heart and fire emojis, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Admittedly, when you’re watching Spree for the first time, you probably won’t hit the pause button either (especially once David Arquette shows up).
There are few things more pathetic than a wannabe influencer. We want to pretend that the lives that inspire us exist to entertain and inform without any hidden agenda, but the truth is, most of us don’t want to rebel anymore when we’re young; we want to be brands. Turn to our young antihero Kurt Kunkle (Joe Keery), a twentysomething rideshare driver desperate for followers, who tells his phone camera early on in Spree that “if you’re not documenting yourself, you don’t exist.” The only trouble is that his online show “Kurt’s World” has an inhabitant of one. To spice things up, Kurt creates a new hashtag, #thelesson, a step-by-step guide to internet infamy where he picks up unsuspecting riders, offers them a poisoned water bottle, and promptly disposes of them in increasingly shocking ways. All in the name of virtual validation.
Reality sets in quickly for Kurt when his viewers don’t start to increase exponentially until an actual bonafide influencer climbs into the back seat. Comedian and Story Insta extraordinaire Jessie Adams (Sasheer Zamata) suddenly has a cameo in “Kurt’s World” that quickly turns into a starring role. Jessie and Kurt represent two ends of the social media dichotomy: one that became successful and relevant because they’re funny and one who is willing to kill for that relevance because they’ve literally been driven insane. Kurt is the modern school shooter who just traded in his guns for GoPros. Set in the City of Angels, Kurt’s victims are really a commentary on the vapid L.A. stereotypes that are constantly posing in front of the Hollywood sign in their heads. Deemed the “reaper of reposts,” Jessie is almost as bad as Kurt and her tagline is really the motto of the movie. “All eyes on me, I want to be seen.”
At first, it seems like Kurt is just tired of being called a “libtard incel” all the time, and that his murder rampage is showing his bubbling disgust for society’s ongoing phone addiction and general shittyness to anyone that seems lesser than. Choosing an alternate route, Kurt really represents the three-headed dragon breathing fire down upon the dopamine addicted masses that created him in the first place. He’s the byproduct of all of us who have become so determined to become products ourselves.
More like a roller coaster than a cautionary tale, this is by no means a dangerous movie that’s going to inspire livestream copy cats on Twitch. Not surprisingly, name brands like Uber and Instagram chose not to lend their names to this enterprise and, because the names of the apps we know have been changed to protect the innocent, Spree feels almost like it takes place in a parallel universe. It comments on our society but everything that’s beamed out over the satellite is more of a hyperreal version of the lives we lead. Or, at least the lives we pretend to lead. This is too true to life to be compared to a great Black Mirror episode, but Spree does feel like something Bret Easton Ellis would conjure up if he turned his attention to content creators instead of Huey Lewis loving yuppies.
Spree is available in select theaters, drive-ins, on demand and digital August 14th.
It takes guts to kill for attention, but it takes real skill to earn a truly loyal following.