Review by Sean Boelman
Eugene Kotlyarenko’s new horror-comedy Spree seems as if it was designed to inflame and provoke, taking on current issues in a way that is edgy and tongue-in-cheek. Thanks to a witty script and an enjoyable performance from star Joe Keery (Stranger Things), this is a fun yet insightful thriller.
The film follows a rideshare driver and self-proclaimed influencer who hatches a plan to go viral by setting out on a night-long killing spree while driving. And while there have been a fair share of movies to come out recently that try to capitalize on viral culture, this works better than others because it recognizes the absurdity of its setup.
There is a clear sense of narrative momentum to the film, Kotlyarenko and Gene McHugh’s script finding an impeccable balance between its dark humor and its attempts to shock the audience. At times the movie does go a bit too far, even to the point of feeling exploitative, but it works more often than it misses.
Unfortunately, the same people who found last year’s Joker to be inspirational will completely miss the point here. The protagonist, while charming, is not meant to be a likable or relatable character. Instead, he is an exaggerated manifestation of the materialism of online society and the toxic masculinity that has come to dominate that group.
Keery’s performance is frequently hilarious, and he’s honestly the thing that holds the whole affair together. Even in moments where there’s nothing particularly cinematic going on, he is completely committed to his performance and gives it his all. It’s over-the-top and schlocky, but endlessly fun to watch.
The film also features some strong performances from people that Keery’s character comes across over the course of his rampage. Sasheer Zamata is probably the biggest standout, giving a surprising and grounded performance. Other highlights include David Arquette, Kyle Mooney, and Linas Phillips.
Visually, the movie does a lot with simulated screens, giving it a very dynamic and kinetic feel, but it does become a bit disorienting at times. Still, it’s understandable why Kotylarenko went for this technology-based style, as it plays such an integral role in the plot, but that does hold it back from being as cinematic as it could be.
Spree is an entertaining and thought-provoking satire of the digital world. Not everyone is going to be a fan of this admittedly very aggressive dark humor and commentary, but it’s a great flick for the midnight crowd.
Spree hits theaters and VOD on August 14.
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