Polygon’s entertainment team is on the ground at the 2020 Sundance Movie Festival, bringing you initially looks at what make sure to be a few of the year’s finest blockbuster-alternative offerings. Here’s what you need to know before these indie films make their method to theaters, streaming services, and the cinematic zeitgeist.
Logline: Desperate for subscribers, an awkward boy turns his ride-share automobile into a livestream death trap.
Longerline: In an introduction to his scuzzy, thriller-comedy Spree, writer-director Eugene Kotlyarenko ( Wobble Palace) alerted Sundance-goers to turn off their phones– partly out of courtesy, but primarily to prevent confusion. The vérité-style romp cuts between Instagram feeds, body web cams, and the angle of a Carpool Karaoke-style vehicle rig to produce a maelstrom of screen time. In the vein of Unfriended or Searching, Kotlyarenko traps audiences in the suffocating screens of daily life, then extends the limitations of the format by staging violent trouble.
From beginning to end, Kurt ( Stranger Things‘ Joe Keery) is glued to his phone, hoping the next video will skyrocket his online brand Kurt’s World to the top of social charts. Kurt is adrift and maladjusted, and doesn’t have that particular something to captivate an audience with his recorded day-to-day activities. So he ditches the vlogging for what he dubs “#TheLesson,” a fool-proof strategy to gain followers. The essence: dedicate lots and great deals of murder. And his victims come to him, hailing the serial killer to various corners of Los Angeles using the Uber-adjacent app Spree.
As Kurt becomes more desperate for engagement (” SMASH THAT SUBSCRIBE BUTTON … LINK IN THE BIO”), his stunts become more gruesome. He never loses his chipper, vlogger veneer, a comic who makes going viral look simple ( SNL‘s Sasheer Zamata) and a teen prankster with a mesmerized audience (Vine star Josh Ovalle) finally send him off the rails.
The quote that says it all: ” Hey, how did you grow your following?”
What’s it trying to do? If Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker found Snapchat rather of face paint, he may have ended up in the motorist’s seat of Spree Kurt is a well-meaning dweeb caught in the well-documented vortex of social networks, and while his actions are guilty, the motion picture represents him as a victim of scenario. His parents are divorced, he has no evident good friends, and the unattended algorithms of Silicon Valley item put worms in his brain. White male opportunity might be the element that pressed him to start a killing spree over, state, logging off and taking a nap, but Spree does not put the description in blunt terms. Like Arthur Fleck, Rupert Pumpkin, and other twisted protagonist forefathers, Kurt merely follows the voices in his head– plus the numerous others that start piling up in the remark section when his livestream does begin getting seen.
Kotlyarenko keeps Spree from becoming a present-set Black Mirror by opting for jokes over extensive minutes of mental dissection. Fortunately, the tonal whiplash is rare for Spree, which zips from vignette to vignette on the back of an all-in performance.
Keery’s take on Kurt is firmly in the “mumbling, excessively confident, fame-chasing Kyle Mooney character” family (which is additional amusing because Mooney ultimately reveals up in Spree). Kotlyarenko likewise gifts Zamata room to perform her comedy, dive into the action, and sick burn losers left and.
Spree isn’t scary(though a glimpse into Kurt’s proliferating 4chan fandom is definitely terrifying), however it is extremely entertaining. People who discover Spree will never ever hear the word “material” the same way ever again.
The most meme-able moment: The opening, a series of Kurt’s dreadful “Hey guys” vlogs. There will quickly be a new vocabulary for dunking on social media stars, and they all include Joe Keery.
When can we see it? Spree is an independent production that premiered at Sundance, and it’s currently seeking distribution.