Often while doing any sort of menial task, I like to put on a forgettable movie in the background, one I can ignore. Prime Video is an excellent source for that kind of film, and its choice in obscure movies of dubious repute runs deep in the best of ways.
#Screamers hit all the checkmarks for what I was looking for during a recent round of laundry folding. Found footage? Check. A spooky video at its center? Check. Hashtag in title? Check, and if that’s not a deterrent, I don’t know what is.
And you know what? I’m a fan of this film, and not in any kind of detached, ironic, so bad it’s good kind of way. #Screamers is just a solid piece of film making.
What drives the movie is a carefully constructed setup. The entire first act is set aside for character introductions and an insight into their video startup, Gigaler. The service is portrayed as a YouTube competitor, with its differentiator being an intelligent recommendation algorithm. As far as a web site goes, it feels like something that could (and probably should) exist, giving #Screamers a surprising touch of realism. The first thirty minutes comes across as an actual documentary.
Things start taking a slow and ominous turn after a couple of jump-scare films are submitted to the site. The videos become instant hits, and when a Gigaler tech tracks down the creator’s phone number to get exclusive distribution rights, weirdness sets in. The woman at the other end of the line sounds strange, almost otherworldly, and the negotiation goes nowhere. Who is she and what is her involvement with the man, Francis, she nervously keeps referring to? Tom, Gigaler’s co-founder, finds the situation intriguing enough to take his
core team on a road trip to track her down.
Through its last two thirds, #Screamers is eerily tense. It’s easy to identify with the Gigaler crew having fun with the strange phone calls, and how tracking down the video creators sounds like a smart idea. The difference is that we know where it will all go. Not a single found footage film has ended well, and there is no reason to expect #Screamers to be any different, though fair is fair: it does provide a good twist on the formula.
I can’t really think of anything I disliked about this film. I understand I’m in the minority with #Screamers clocking in at a middling 4.4 at IMDb. That is what it is, and I am not going to deny my true feelings for #Screamers. It mixes inspirational and creepy in a way I can’t recall having seen before, and the balance makes for a really good watch. (I mean, the apartment in American Psycho was designed in a way we all should aspire to, I suppose, but I digress.)
Your mileage will likely vary, but give #Screamers a chance, if only to get out of folding your laundry. It’s currently streaming on Prime.
The stylized name of the movie has changed a number of times during its tenure on Prime. It was first #screamers, then #SCREAMERS, followed by #Screamers. It just recently became Screamers, but I refuse to acknowledge the removal of the charming hashtag. (Also, the tagline has little to do with the actual screaming-title.)
Bonus bonus oddity!
gigaler.com exists, but its WordPress install is riddled with errors. Too bad. It was a nice looking site.