Spree, a Facile Serial Killer Thriller for the Social Media Age

I’ve seen quite a few call Spree a film about an incel. Based on the evidence provided (the film itself), that’s not true. Spree is not a film about incel culture, but presumably a film about all of us. That’s right, another #lesson on our narcissistic use of and addiction to social media. I don’t deny there are untold negative side effects of the rise of such media. In fact, the issue is probably far too unexamined relative to its scope and far-reaching ramifications for society. That being said, acknowledgement of a problem is not the same as investigating or mining the nature of a problem. Spree is a facile examination of social media addiction and narcissism, drawn out to its naturally exaggerated conclusion: what if somebody sought infamy by streaming murder live on the internet, all for the follows?

Joe Keery of “Stranger Things” fame is game for everything the script throws at him, able to instill in Kurt a cheerful malice that somehow makes us root for him in spite of his ugly deeds. That is, until the moment in a moldy junk yard when suddenly his victims aren’t so rude and haughty. As a rideshare driver on the prowl for people to drug and maim, he happens upon one terrible person after another at first. There’s a professional white supremacist on the verge of a speaking engagement, a “date rape drug” in the form of a single fratboy, and other assorted types representing the vacuous, greedy, and morally depraved among us. Then, all at once in his cross-hairs, three party-goers looking for a night to remember, and eventually, even Kurt’s own father (David Arquette). That’s when the worm turns and we’re no longer watching a twisted vigilante story. We’re watching an overly cynical reflection of modern America and social media habits circa pre-pandemic.

After a night on the town, Kurt’s fate is sealed when he becomes entwined with a local comedian and social media sensation, a woman apparently meant to fulfill our rooting interest but unfortunately far too unlikable herself to meet such goals. Spree‘s problem, not unlike many films of its ilk, is portraying every human being as so thoroughly unlikable that the world it’s presenting to us becomes unrealistic and somewhat unrecognizable. Without being blind to the glib, fame-obsessed culture of Instagram or the hotbed of toxicity on Twitter and other apps, Spree doesn’t ring true when painting everyone on every platform as so bored they’re willing to pay witness to murder. Regardless, there’s an intangible energy to the one-night-of-crazy narrative, and Keery holds our attention for an entire 90 minutes, a testament to his budding charisma as an actor and to a casting director here who correctly saw in him leading man material.

Grade: C+

Rent it on Vudu, Google Play, or Amazon

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