Thursday, July 31, 2014

Fantasia 2014: Cybernatural Reviewed

The prophets of science warned us about "Cultural Lag"; where our technological advances rocket ever forward while society develops far slower. Thoughtful gestures of self expression like "the hand written letter", and to a lesser extent, the "phone call" ...and even the smallest bit of effort made in the thought provoking "email" fall by the wayside to a text containing the "winky face". Film and television assure us our obsession with the walking dead is still going strong as we stand horrified before the possibility of necrotic cannibal Armageddon, but I'm here to tell you friends, THAT DAY HAS ALREADY COME!! We walk silently through the streets, head down, jaw slack, staring into a little screen that spits out tiny slivers of people's lives. If someone in front of us is in distress, our first impulse is to point that little screen and record the moment with the full intention of sharing it with the world. Our apathy toward each other grows with each new iPhone release and infinite choruses of Sarah McLachlan's "In The Arms of an Angel" will do nothing to jar us from this system and make our hearts grow 3 sizes that day. This is the world we live in, and the perfect setting for a modern tale of horror where the very technology we are locked inside can reach over and grab us.

Cybernatural begins innocently enough, or rather on a slightly dirty note, with two young would-be-lovers flirting via webcams on a program I will not even attempt to identify lest I show my age. (Them kids and their damn AOL's) As their friends join the conversation, strange glitches direct our heroine's focus to a horrific suicide at her high school, and continually to a heavy handed suggestion that demonic possession is at work this night. A taunting stranger has made themselves welcome amid their conversation and seems hell bent on exposing a heartless individual who drove a young girl to her death. The truth will come out, or everyone can by one. The intel-powered specter seems content with either result. In the fantastic tradition of classic horror films, most of this group is largely unlikable, so part of the fun is wondering who will be next to say something asinine in the face of certain death and get just what they deserve! Part "Saw" in its use of games to taunt its victims, and a little "Scream" mystery thrown in as we wonder if one of the young participants is actually assisting the murderer, creates a fantastic tone young horror fans will embrace immediately, and perhaps results in the first film to encourage people to watch from their own computer screens! This makes me curious to see how a distribution company might roll this film out...

The ENTIRE film makes you a viewer, not of the film but as silent, inactive witness to these events unfolding in a realistic time frame on your computer screen with authentic sounds from your favorite applications going off. On more than one occasion, I thought the sounds were coming from my own computer, which can be unnerving. If you are someone who is locked inside the internet for hours every day, this format will suck you right in..which is part of the film's genius. Typical user-on-a-not-so-fantastic-computer problems help to build suspense as we notice things in the background that could be a creature stalking these kids..or a pixelated area that's having trouble making out the right colors. Problems like "buffering" and a crappy webcam struggling to catch up with a fast moving subject heighten our anxiety as we imagine what could be happening while we wait, and hear unearthly sounds as clear as day. The film can get slightly disorienting and oddly claustrophobic. Top notch acting seals the deal and our belief in this little horror tale is complete.

Squeaky clean horror often gets a bad rap, but Cybernatural's cut-aways and lack of visual information during kills are explained by a computer's failings, which we've all experienced and therefore buy into. This makes the film stand out as both super clever and remarkably self aware as it knows EXACTLY who it is rolling out for (teens!) and never strives to push beyond the PG-13 boundary. In this, of course, old school, jaded horror fans will find little to be scared of, but you can't help but applaud this new way of story telling and, when friend turns on friend as the prospect of impending death closes in and the killer forces them to choose who might be next, the story that unfolds is hysterically mean spirited and undeniably fun! Here's to new ideas that actually succeed in the horror genre!! I look forward to watching young horror fans discover this film...and observe what the film makers have in store for every new viewer...

No comments :

Post a Comment