Bullying has been around for as long as there have been people, going back to that time when Cain slayed his brother Abel. Usually, the reasons behind bullying are jealousy and insecurity. Now, though, with the proliferation of social media, bullying can take on many forms, and, in some ways, inflict even more damage. Now, from IFC Midnight, who have brought us everything from the Human Centipede films to last year’s acclaimed The Babadook, comes #Horror, currently in select theaters and on VOD platforms.
The film concerns a group of privileged junior high school girls having a sleepover at one of their homes, an overly-indulgent, yet sterile mansion in the woods. These girls, like many teens of today, live and die on their cell phones, constantly posting selfies and social status updates. They also take great pleasure in making fun of each other, not good-natured, we’re all-in-on-it-together, ribbing kind of fun, but mean-spirited bullying that targets one’s insecurities, whether it’s being overweight or not being wealthy enough. Of course, bullying someone in person isn’t enough – you need to post it for all the world to see in order to achieve maximum effectiveness. When one of the girl’s cyberbullying is perceived to go too far, she is kicked out of the house into the cold wintry woods. Meanwhile, as a search begins for the exiled teen, a masked killer is picking off victims one by one, as the teenage girls witness bullying taken to the extreme.
#Horror is an interesting and original terror film from actress Tara Subkoff, who has appeared in films like As Good As It Gets, The Last Days of Disco and The Cell. Here, she writes and directs her first film, intending not just to frighten audiences, but to engage them as well with an issue that many teens, and those older as well, face today. A sizeable portion of the film dealing with the teenage girls dressing up while poking fun at one another almost makes you forget you’re watching a horror film. But you remember the title and the opening kill sequence, and soon enough, a body count starts piling up to remind you what you’re here for. Subkoff shows a unique style from the get-go with one of the most visually colorful and eye-popping title sequences ever put on film. She also cleverly uses a variety of social media pop-ups throughout the film to further enhance the story and bring home the point of how pervasive these forms of communication are in our lives, especially among the young who have never known a world without it.
While Subkoff’s style is a great asset to the film, it is her handling of her young and talented cast that ultimately allows the film to succeed like it does. Sadie Seelert, Haley Murphy, Bridget McGarry, Blue Lindeberg, Emma Adler and Mina Sundwall collectively shine as the troubled youths, alternating at times from being teased to being the ones doing the teasing, and eventually, being terrorized. If one wonders what may cause teens to find perverted joy in bullying each other, one needs to only look as far as their parents, self-centered, clueless, or even bullies themselves. Here, Subkoff employs a veteran cast, including Timothy Hutton, Chloe Sevigny, Natasha Lyonne and Balthazar Getty. Hutton is especially in rare form when it comes time for him to confront the girls.
As noted in our piece on the recent NYC Horror Film Festival, where #Horror was screened in front of a packed house, with Tara Subkoff and most of her young cast in attendance, Subkoff was inspired to write the film based on a friend’s daughter who had been on the receiving end of cyberbullying. As Subkoff herself had been a victim of bullying, she was well aware of how bullying has taken on a whole new life with the avent of social media. Now, bullying can follow you away from school or playground right to your home or everywhere you go, and exists for all the world to see for an endless amount of time. As if adolescence isn’t difficult enough, this added threat makes the issue of cyberbullying important to stay on top of. And #Horror brings the problem to light with intelligence and wit, while throwing in scares and thrills. As Subkoff stated at the horrorfest, she is a big fan of horror, so we hope she sticks with the genre and can add more thoughtful, yet frightening flicks to come.
— review by Brian de Castro