SPREE is the most bizarre film of 2020. Easily. Not to say that it’s bad, it was quite entertaining for its short 90 minute run time, but it’s balance of tone is the most head scratching thing for me this year. Well, no, that’s not true, COVID-19 and our nations way of handling it is the most head scratching thing, but this is a close second. Speaking of our nation handling situations, Spree has something to say about social media, followers and fame that is pretty dead on with the times right now. Remember the movie Infamous I reviewed not too long ago starring Bella Thorne? Spree was what Infamous should’ve have been. Infamous was about a duo that went and robbed a bunch of places, killed people and Bella Thorne would live stream their crimes on an Instagram type app to get followers and fame. Infamous didn’t work because it took itself way too seriously (absolutely no satire in it at all), Bella Thorne gave one of the worst performances in a movie this year, and it was boring and not entertaining in the slightest. Spree, on the other hand, in some ways, is on the opposite end of that spectrum. Stranger Thing’s Joe Keery’s performance is actually quite good, the movie is actually decently watchable, didn’t have any lag, but the movie was too much satire…there was too much comedy in it…it didn’t take itself seriously at all. But thinking back on it, maybe that was the point? If it was, the tone just didn’t quite work for me but could for someone else. I wonder if we’ll ever get a movie about social media that balances satire and tone perfectly? Maybe. Spree will do for now though as I am recommending it for how dead on its messages and themes of social media and fame are, and because I’ve seen people online that are exactly like Joe Keery’s character.
Per IMDB, Spree’s log line is: “Thirsty for a following, Kurt Kunkle is a rideshare driver who has figured out a deadly plan to go viral.” Yes, that deadly plan is killing people if you were wondering. His Instagram-like page hardly gets any followers, not even in the double digits, and he has been trying and playing by the rules for quite a long time. He suddenly gets an idea: he sets up cameras all over his car, and starts killing people in different ways (it’s not just running over people when they get out of the car thank God) if those people deserve it. But a semi-famous comedian is about to get into his car and divert Kurt’s night into something strange and not according to plan. But will Kurt’s follower count and live stream audience rise like it never has before? Oh wow, I actually expanded upon a log line and made it my own. Haven’t done that in awhile. Anyway, it’s a great concept, it’s just executed a little weird, especially the very, very end. It plays like a desktop/phone movie, where the footage you are watching is coming off Kurt’s live stream or through security cameras in the area. It’s like Searching or the Unfriended movies, but more accessible and at more locations, like found footage movies such as Cloverfield. It’s just a wacky, wacky entertainingly good time. My only problem is that with all the horrifying things Kurt is doing to people, it doesn’t take itself seriously at all. Way too much satire. The violence mostly cuts away to Kurt’s reaction once everything is said and done, which was a bit disappointing. In those moments, it could’ve gotten very, very serious, then gone back to satire and the movie could’ve been the next great balance of two very different tones, like American Psycho, but alas, it was not meant to be.
But in its weaknesses are some strengths, and like I said, it has something crazy dead on to say about how addicting social media is and how deeply disturbing it can make some people with a weak frame of mind. This is writer/director Eugene Kotlyarenko’s first feature I have ever heard of, and it seems he did his homework and studied social media behavior while writing and directing this film. Kudos on that good sir. Now you just need to work on balance of tone, mood, and atmosphere and your next feature could be masterful. Joe Keery is great in this and his performance is dead on to some of the shit I’ve seen out there on the net. But he isn’t the only recognizable face in this. Mischa Barton turns up in a very bit part as one of the passengers. SNL’s Sasheer Zamata is the comedian in the wrong place at the wrong time…or is it the right place at the right time. And Scream’s David Arquette plays Keery’s father. All three do a entertainingly good job here and keep the fast and frantic pace of the movie going and don’t drag it down at all. When the camera goes outside the confines of the ride share vehicle, it works and is realistic enough to not make you roll your eyes. The movie even has an answer as to why Kurt’s phone doesn’t drain of too much power over the night (charger in a car). I’m just a little disappointed, because when I read what the movie was about, in my head, the concept was just much more balanced. In my head, I saw everything be deadly serious in one moment and then completely flip the switch and it work better for the film. Oh well, if I want that great balance of flavor, I should probably just pick up the candy of the same name right?