#Horror movie full length review - "#Horror" buries important messages beneath amateruish filmmaking.
Sometimes a movie comes along with the best of intentions, but its execution is simply so bad that the message gets lost. "#Horror" (R, 1:41) is one of those.
The film is basically about cyberbullying, which is a serious problem in the U.S., especially among teens. According to figures from bullyingstatistics.org and Wikipedia.com, about half of all American teenagers experience cyberbullying at some point, about 1/3 per year and about 10-20 percent on a regular basis. Cyberbullying affects girls and boys roughly equally and includes all races. Many victims are more likely to have low self-esteem and consider suicide ? with some having tragically completed the act. Statistics, facts and stories can bring attention to the problem, but few methods can bring it to life more effectively than a movie ? IF the movie in question is effective.
As six 12-year-old girls in Connecticut gather for a sleepover, the issue of cyberbullying is introduced in a pair of parent-child conversations and becomes a factor throughout the girls' day and evening together. As Sam (Sadie Seelert) is being driven to the party by her mom (Natasha Lyonne), Sam is clearly embarrassed by her family's low socioeconomic status as compared to the girls she is about to spend time with and she is desperate to fit in. Meanwhile, Cat (Haley Murphy) is being lectured by her father, Dr. White (Timothy Hutton). Cat has been the victim of cyberbullying and (as is often the case) has also become a perpetrator. By the time Sam and Cat each arrive at the home of their host, Sophia (Bridget McGarry), three other girls, Georgie (Emma Adler), Francesca (Mina Sundwall) and Ava (Blue Lindberg) are already in Sophia's basement speaking unkindly about Cat and Sam, which Sam overhears before she enters the room? but she goes in anyway. And this is only the beginning of the girls' meanness.
No one is spared hurt feelings in this movie. The sleepover activities ? playing dress-up, swimming, dancing, talking, etc. ? are infused with the girls picking on each other in a way that they may think is playful, but doesn't seem to feel that way to the girl(s) on the receiving end. These tweens mercilessly tease each other about things like lacking money, being fat, enduring family embarrassment (and even trauma) and generally not fitting in. They supplement their taunts by posting pictures of each other online along with cruel hashtags. Things occasionally get very heated between some of the girls and, at one point, Sophia throws Cat out of the house. Cat leaves a very emotional voice mail for her father, who tries to call her back, fails to reach her and shows up at the house to lecture, yell at and threaten the girls. Sophia's mother (Chloë Sevigny) has left the girls alone for a while to take care of some personal business, and Sophia's father (Balthazar Getty) isn't home either, so there's no one to defend the girls from Dr. White's erratic behavior or to help him look for Cat. Things go downhill for the girls to the point that the audience gets a decent final 10 minutes, but that's the only real horror in the movie.
Filmmakers who want to make a horror movie sometimes need to be reminded that horrifying and horrible are not the same thing. These performances range from barely passable to just plain bad, in spite of the presence of an Oscar nominee (Sevigny) and an Oscar winner (Hutton) in the cast, but the actors are done no favors by a script that has them doing and saying things that often make very little sense. The words of caution and life lessons that writer-director Tara Subkoff clearly wants to convey are randomly scattered through the script as one-liners or isolated incidents that are almost completely lacking in coherence. But even with criticisms like these, you'd expect a big-screen release to at least display a certain professional technical expertise, wouldn't you? The cinematography is inconsistent in its look and many of the camera shots are of poor quality. And don't get me started on the distracting flashes of barely understandable and essentially meaningless cartoonish graphics throughout the film.
The worst thing about this movie is the important themes it tries to explore and the vital points that it wants to make are all buried beneath amateurish filmmaking. Even though this story hits many of the right notes, few people who see the movie will benefit from them. Although it doesn't have as much to say as this film is trying to, 2015's "Unfriended" is a cautionary tale of cyberbullying that is at least semi-entertaining. Still, there's a void to be filled. A topic as important as cyberbullying deserves an equally important and well-made movie. Here's hoping that we get one soon, because "#Horror" ain't it. "D"