Michelle Mylett - Samantha Rezner
Cody Thompson - Mark Archibald
Adam Christie - Jed Erickson
Aria Alic - Kaitlin Cosgrove
Romaine Waite - Steve McDonald
Ry Barrett - Chad Wilson
Laurel Brandes - Tara Ryder
Charlie Hamilton - Dan Hamilton
Genre - Horror/Survival/Technology/Virus
Running Time - 90 Minutes
It's New Year's Eve, and Samantha (Michelle Mylett) is having a terrible end to the year. She and her boyfriend, Dan Hamilton (Charlie Hamilton) have broken up and he's made it public on a social networking site called The Social Redroom. Even though she's upset, she decides to go to a New Year's Eve party held by Mark (Cody Thompson) in order to forget about her problems with the company of good friends. After the partiers bond a bit, they hear and see news on television and the internet about people randomly going crazy and attacking others. The outbreak is so bad, it's recommended that no one goes outside and barricade themselves inside.
When the group start taking the news seriously, unwanted guests attempt to break in. Slowly, some of the partiers begin to bleed from their ear and nose, which is the sign of an infection. The virus begins to spread amongst the group, figuring out that it's being done via subliminal messages and signals through The Social Redroom. The signals cause the brains of users to expand, to the point where the infected become homicidal maniacs.
ANTISOCIAL is a low budget independent horror film that's being distributed by the good folks of Breaking Glass Pictures later in the month. The narrative isn't all that original. It follows the familiar path of a zombie movie. It has some sort of virus that infects people and gives them the urge to kill. It even has a strong message that's not executed as well as it probably could have been. Still, as predictable and unoriginal that ANTISOCIAL is, it's still 90 minutes worth watching.
The screenplay works well for the film's budget. Zombie/Infected films usually don't require a ton of cash, so it was smart of Cody Calahan and Chad Archibald to use this as a premise. It also helps when Calahan and Archibald do a lot of things right in terms of storytelling. We have a handful of characters that we grow to know somewhat, which helps bring about tension when the infection hits closer to home. They're all trapped in a single location, creating claustrophobia and maintaining the focus on where it should be. It's your usual zombie survival flick, but instead of dead people, it's people who are infected by a virus. All the cliches are there, but they're used well. I mean, without the message [that I'll discuss in the next paragraph], this would be a standard zombie film in which the characters do nothing but accuse each other of being infected until there's a single survivor. At least this portion is done well enough to be watchable and somewhat entertaining on its own.
The reason for this film's existence is really the message about social networking. Or in the case of ANTISOCIAL, the evils of being part of a social network. The infection is spread through the use of a Facebook wannabe called The Social Redroom, which seems to be the only network all these characters use, considering how quickly the infection spreads. The company supposed uses subliminal messaging, or signals within the network, to do bad things to users' brains to make them sick until they're hungry for flesh. Now this is nothing new. Films like THE LAWNMOWER MAN, THE SIGNAL, and KAIRO/PULSE, and novels like Stephen King's Cell, have all presented stories of technology spreading disease to those who use it. ANTISOCIAL wants to tell us that social media is like a disease that has infected us all. Most of us have lived our lives through social networking, as well as being part of other's lives through their use of the same network. Characters in the films are constantly on their phones, or on their computers, as a way to communicate with others. There's even talk about sex tapes, in how they're used to make the participants famous rather than keeping the act of intimacy private. I also liked how Samantha's friends look at her oddly when she reveals that she deleted her profile, to which one asks her - "How do you keep in contact with people?" When she replies that she does it in person, it's treated as if it's not a serious response. ANTISOCIAL is telling us that social networking is evil. It's an addiction, like with drugs or sex. We're addicted to revealing our personal information to others - more focused on spending time chatting via text or private messaging rather than doing that in person.
Unfortunately, ANTISOCIAL doesn't take that message as far as it should go. Instead of using the social commentary to drive the film, the script is more focused on the zombie-like aspect of the narrative by the halfway mark. It's not enough to just inform us that social networking is a bad thing. The script hits the viewer over the head with that fact multiple times. But that's all it is - a message that's repeated ad nauseam. There's nothing more to it than that, which is a missed opportunity. It should have been the thing to really drive the story. Instead, it's just there to make the standard zombie story seem a bit more intelligent.
Cody Calahan shows a ton of promise as a horror director to watch. ANTISOCIAL uses it limited budget well by doing some stylish techniques with the camera. I love the hallucination scenes in which the infected characters experience gruesome things happened to them. One pulls out their guts from their mouth. One stabs himself in the eye. The picture quality is more saturated during these scenes, which I thought was cool. Calahan also does well in terms of tension and suspense, especially once the infected start attacking others. I thought the scenes in which the characters watch videos of why the infection is around and how it spreads were done well, but felt ruined a bit of the mystery. At least the explanation was presented better than just through expository dialogue. It has a nice mood and the film looks good. I think Calahan is one to look out for in the near future.
The acting is decent for the most part. Most of the actors have amateurish performances, which is okay since the roles they play are fairly stereotypical. However, Michelle Mylett and Cody Thompson are very good in their roles as Samantha and Mark. Luckily, most of the scenes in the film involve them so the acting is more positive than negative. In particular, I really enjoyed Mylett as a tough, brave girl who happens to be very active and smart when it comes to the horrible situation she's put in. I think we'll be seeing more of her in the future if we're lucky.
THE FINAL HOWL
While not a perfect film, ANTISOCIAL is still a pretty solid horror film for those who like their zombie/infected monster movies with a bit of a relevant message. The film is tense, stylish for its limited budget, and has a good story that tells its narrative well enough to keep you engaged. And the acting by the leads, Michelle Mylett and Cody Thompson, are good. The idea that social networking is evil is a good one, but I wish ANTISOCIAL had done more with it to really make it stand out. Still, it's worth your 90 minutes of time - that is if you can stay away from using your phone or computer to update your current status.