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The first I had heard of this film was only a few months ago. The trailers looked intriguing. But the concept of seeing the film from a computer screen had me feeling unsure as the horror franchise Unfriended never fully utilised it. So there was a part of me thinking that this film might not be totally engaging as the gimmick could wear thin.
However, the buzz coming from this looked rather promising. Also, I am a fan of John Cho and I was glad to see him have a sole leading role, after enjoying him in the Star Trek and Harold & Kumar films as well as his iconic cult moment in American Pie.
It seems I was right to react to the buzz. The opening scene gives you a wonderful introduction and backstory about the characters you are about to encounter. It had a similar construction to how the Pixar film Up began, It felt like a brief summary, and then you are suddenly dropped to the middle of the part when it gets juicy.
From then on, it's a tense mystery thriller that gradually brews its way up to boiling point. When one more clue gets put into the mix, the mood just intensifies even more.
There were even a few scenes towards the end of the second act that made great awareness of how certain members of the younger generation are just desperate for media attention and will do anything just to get likes on various social media outlets.
By the end of it, you kind of expect it to end in a generic way. Then out of nowhere, a very well executed twist turns the story almost a complete 180 degree turn. That ending for me is what is getting the buzz and strong word of mouth.
I was really happy to see John Cho make the most of this opportunity as he did great in the lead and totally kept the film moving. His intensity and sympathy his character produces were spot on throughout and you could feel the determination and I was constantly rooting for him.
I had no idea Debra Messing was part of this, and it was great to see her take a serious role and be out of her comfort zone. We know her more for TV sitcom's such as Will & Grace or rom-coms. Messing's inexperience did show at times. But on the whole, I think she did a really good job.
The computer screen concept is the most vital cog in the works. I think director Aneesh Chaganty did a great feature debut, and his team have shown what this emerging tactic in film-making is capable of. I think what I liked about it the most is that they make you notice things on the computer screen that our main character discovers later on in the film. That was quite a fun little game to get ahead and was quite a clever move the film-makers created.
While I think they made good use of the concept, there were some moments that felt illogical to be done on a computer screen. But as the film-makers have committed to the film being solely on a computer screen, I guess you kind of have to let some things go like what I did with the first Cloverfield film who made great use of the found-footage genre.
All in all, I thought this was a rather enjoyable thriller. It moves along nicely, there are clever ways they use the computer screen concept, it felt a bold and daring method of telling a story and the final act is pretty strong which contains a pretty cool twist. It was great to see a successful execution of this concept. When done well, this emerging sub-genre has the ability to be fantastic.
The performances all worked well and Cho was a more than capable lead and carried the film well.
I wouldn't quite call this a game-change to the genre. But in terms of tension and story-telling, it's certainly worth a watch. I don't think it will do well at the cinemas. However, it's home release sales should do rather well.