A quintessential message delivered like a 3D printed knife to the gut. The blade dull, but sharp enough. I’m talking about Spree, the gonzo-style satire about a young man obsessed with becoming social media famous that’s incredibly realistic in its capture of delusional vlogger desperation.
Spree represents the reality of the “perfect” life showed in all its cold, grotesque pointlessness, making it feel like a new-age version of American Psycho. The two films could be watched back-to-back as a double feature because they share the same skeletal outline. Impactful, unsettling, and very, very cold. The film and its protagonist feel empty, and that’s the point.
By the way, if you’re an influencer or vlogger or something of the sort I’m sorry but I advise you to just not watch this film because everything about it is designed to insult your “profession,” fair warning.
Directed and co-written by Eugene Kotlyarenko, Spree holds nothing back in its message, practically beating us over the head with it. In short: we need to get off our phones.
Filmed like a strange type of found footage feature shown through various recordings taken from phones and cameras, Spree is a very obvious metaphor about how “plugged in” the world is. Everyone in the film is attached to a phone or some sort of camera and everyone has a feed they can’t spend more than 5 minutes away from. It may be a hyperbolized version of social media reality, at times becoming overkill, but it’s not wrong. Shown to the extreme, the film sums up everything I feel about most vloggers, influencers, and Instagramers. If I ever forget why I hate such circles, Spree will spend its entire 93 minutes reminding me.
Kurt Kunkle (Joe Keery) is a young man who speaks like he’s always live-streaming because he is always live-streaming. According to him, “if you don’t document yourself then you don’t exist.” A statement that might as well be the foundation of Kurt’s entire existence. In his quest for social media relevance, Kurt runs the wildly unpopular YouTube channel “Kurt’s World” where he posts videos about himself. It’s actually painful to watch. His channel doesn’t have a theme, it’s him talking about himself, a clear sign that he’s in desperate need of a companion, or therapy.
In his spare time, he works as a ride-hail driver for a rideshare app called Spree which becomes the setting for his final attempt at fame.
Sick of not getting followers, Kurt decides that the only way to get noticed is to live-stream himself murdering Spree riders. He calls it “The Lesson.” The truly frightening part is how nonchalant he is about it. Doesn’t enjoy or dislike it, he has no reaction whatsoever. Eventually, a famous comedian, Jessie Adams (Sasheer Zamata) gets mixed up in his obsession. Why? Because she has a large social media following. He will do anything to get a taste of that fame.
This film would be nothing without Keery. A steady mix of innocent and psychotic, his lack of awareness makes him almost childlike, unsettling in his detrimental intentions. He plays a convincing psychopath. Someone so detached from reality that he doesn’t comprehend the difference between something that’s staged and something that’s real. The people he kills are gone forever but he doesn’t fully grasp the concept. In the mind of Kurt, people only exist when they’re being recorded therefore his victims have become immortal through his actions.
Spree plays like an extension of social media. It’s colorful, entertaining, a bit shocking, and…empty. Parts of it are a bit hard to follow because several scenes are split in a type of screen share format that has people commenting on the bottom. Kurt verbally responds to some of these comments and some are used to highlight certain elements of a scene.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film but I don’t think I could ever watch it again because of how annoyed I was with all the characters. It’s only 93 minutes but it feels a hell of a lot longer. The message is a good one. The film is absolutely right, however, it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. All the way back to films like Videodrome we’ve been “warned” about the danger technology has on the psyche. So while the film is certainly original, its theme is not.(3 / 5)
Photos are property of RLJE Films