DIRECTOR Cody Calahan WRITER Chad Archibald; Cody Calahan STARS Michelle Mylett; Cody Ray Thompson; Adam Christie SCREENING Today at 15.15 and Sunday at 21.05

This debut feature for writer and director Cody Calahan begins with an interesting premise; he inverts the bane of modern horror cinema — how to best circumvent the issue of salvation via mobile phones and other communication portals — by embracing social media and the online world and making it central to his film. Recent pieces, such as The Purge, dampen the enthusiasm for a good premise as experience shows that it is often quickly abandoned for standard fare. Sadly, Antisocial does the reverse and relentlessly clings, self-aware, to its clever idea, to the utter detriment of the film. 

The plot revolves around a now-familiar virus outbreak that turns people into psychopaths. Our group of protagonists use online communication and social media to better understand and combat their adversity, unaware that the virus itself is linked to this technology. It was dangerous ground, therefore, for Calahan to have his theme so similar to his plot. The theme of Antisocial is of the illusory and artificial nature of modern online social interactions, and every imaginable opportunity is contrived to bluntly ram this home. To achieve this without creating a very boring and patronising film would have required scalpel precision both in the script and the direction; subtlety and nuance, metaphor and simile would need to be woven delicately into relevant scenes. Here, the thematic lesson is forced so incompetently and intrusively that it is simultaneously offensive and funny. One interesting aspect of the social media overplay, however, is the use of smash cuts to profile pages when introducing the group of characters. Alas, that is as far as character development goes — presumably as the saturation of thematic winks only leaves 10 minutes of the first act to set up the plot.

The second act is focused on the group using various media sources to piece together the nature of the outbreak and how best to proceed. This is problematic as it removes the focus from the protagonists’ plight and makes the viewing a double-vicarious experience, and therefore dissociative. The film then hits a few well-worn zombie/infected tropes — regarding an infected group member: “it’s not her any more!” — and stutters into the final half hour. The plot point to kick off this very welcome final act is the discovery (on the Internet, naturally) of a potential cure for the infection. Unintentional hilarity ensues as DIY trepanning is attempted via an online video guide. Mercy is enacted soon after by the closing credits.

Compare Antisocial to projects with similar production constraints, such as American Mary, and there is no parallel in terms of a cinematic experience.

Posted by Ed Pope