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Film Review: “Spree” Is a Millennial’s Sandbox, with High Concept and Commentary on Our New Digital Age

Written by: Adam Vaughn | August 12th, 2020

Film poster: “Spree”

Spree (Eugene Kotlyarenko, 2020) 2½ out of 4 stars.

As we move further into an age of social media, digital takeover, and an ever-growing technological age, movies such as Spree are sure to come bursting out of the woodwork, with hyper-creative ideas of the various ways one can tell a cinematic story. Stranger Things’ Joe Keery stars as Kurt Kunkle, aka “KurtsWorld96,” an aspiring but failing social-media influencer who takes his job at “Spree,” a ride-share company, to a whole new (and deadlier) level, using his multi-camera car setup to brutally murder his passengers.

The film’s cinematography plays out as a “found-footage” movie, but with a more viral feeling to it, as if to imitate a social-media live-stream throughout the film, with multiple camera angles being shown from various sources of footage. Conceptually, I at first  found this type of filming very intriguing and gripping, giving the film a modern, timely vibe and an interesting angle on the rationality behind the film. The result is a film that has linear storytelling (almost no jumps in time like many “found footage” films tend to have), all the while explaining how we as a viewer are seeing what is happening on screen.

l-r: John Deluca as Mario, Sasheer Zamata as Jessie Adams and Joe Keery as Kurt Kunkle in the thriller SPREE, an RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films.

The film definitely reflects many of the social commentaries of the Internet and its ups and downs, consistently throwing in “likes” and “followers” that younger, millennial audience will not only fall right into and find relatable, but which also drive the movie’s character development for Kurt, as his interactions and murderous moments increase his social-media status, blending the maniacal slasher with a hip, new Instagram-worthy motivation. Joe Keery’s portrayal of Kurt certainly moves the film forward and invests the audience, and Sasheer Zamata (I Feel Pretty) appears as an empowering and likeable character who embodies the concepts of how women play a role in today’s virtual/digital society.

Unfortunately, the film’s hyperactive nature, its often nonsensical plot, and its disorientingly cut editing will make it a movie you only wish to see once. OK, maybe twice if you’re interested in showcasing it to a Gen-Z audience. But as a cinematic endeavor, the film falls short on, what will always be the core elements that make a film stand out as a memorable, iconic achievement.

[In select drive-ins, theaters, on digital and on demand August 14th.]

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Adam Vaughn is a graduate of the Film & Moving Image program at Stevenson University, with a focus in Cinematography and Production. He also has a minor in Theater and Media Performance. Adam works as a freelance photographer and videographer, focusing his craft on creating compelling photographic and cinematic imagery. Adam is excited to join the Film Festival Today team and explore the world of cinema and visual arts.

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