by Ian Morton
The best way to think of Spree is like the next iteration of the cinematic psycho – each decade of cinema has presented one based on the polictical and social climate, only this one uses the cynicism of social media as our characters drive trigger to murder.
Stranger Things Joe Keery is in the driving seat as Spree driver ‘Kurt Kunkle’. After what seems like a lifetime of failed attempts at becoming a social media star, Kunkle gets the ingenious idea of using the uber like service he works for to finally get the fame he desires. Taking to the streets for one night of mayhem, he decides that the more extreme you are, the more viewers you get, leaving a trail of bodies in the process.
While there are certainly some character traits similar those of Taxi Drivers ‘Travis Bickle’, or Christian Bale’s ‘Patrick Bateman’, the character is shown in a much more sympathetic light, a man desperate for attention and a victim of the world he tries so hard to be a part of rather than a product of it. Lead actor Keery is the key to keeping you enthralled as he rampages through the city in a bid for likes and follows, creating a character that you both pity and deplore at the same time.
What lets the film down is the sheer lack of any story, Functioning almost like a fly on the wall, the linear, ‘one night in the life of…’ plot ties the film to a series of increasingly more violent and ever more coincidental set pieces, each becoming less believable as time goes on and consequently, less interesting. It’s here unfortunately that the hard work Keery puts in unravels, resulting in a film with very little in terms of a character arc and therefore no real take home message besides social media = dangerous.
Aesthetically, Spree uses a similar approach to 2018’s ‘Searching’ and 2014’s ‘Unfriended’, whereby the story is told through a series of electronic devices and social media posts. For the most part this method of telling the story works but I must admit, it was quite hard to keep up with at times. Where those other films mentioned made sure that the experience felt authentic, even going as far as adding tension to events, here it feels more frenetic. While for the most part it does a good job at representing what the experience is like when streaming a video, it was often hard to work out where you’re meant to be looking. This consequently made me feel frustrated that I had missed something rather than applauding the genius of the method.
Spree is a mixed bag and it’s made more frustrating given that you can see good ideas behind a somewhat disappointing execution. If you like your psycho cinema, then this is one that might be worth a look in but if its depth you’re after, it might be worth revisiting the classics instead.
Spree is out to November 20th 2020 from all digital platforms.
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