We live in a world of instant entertainment, gratification and communication. Our lives wrapped in a digital world of likes, shares, comments and viral videos. The ability to distinguish between reality, fiction, pain and pleasure caught in a trap of instant access. The doors to information, both written and visual, flung wide open. With the internet of things consuming our understanding of the world, as much as we consume its content. These themes have found a stable home in the world of horror over recent years. From uwantme2killhim? through to Unfriended and Assassination Nation, however, the world of violent online pornography remains a taboo. The darkest corners of violence based instant gratification hidden in the shadows of modern horror. And it’s within this deep, dark world that G-Hey Kim’s Don’t Click bravely descends.
As a debut feature, Don’t Click has a challenging job in achieving balance. Its story based on G-Hey Kim’s short 2017 film, of the same name. The transition to feature-length production, often causing problems as directors seek to expand a narrative above and beyond their initial premise. These challenges are further enhanced when the social themes of the work delve into some of the biggest debates surrounding our online world. From reality versus fiction, and culpability versus ignorance to pleasure versus morality. Themes that are challenging at the best of times, but more so when condensed into a tight 90-minute runtime. The risk inherent in the final picture; a descent into mainstream ‘torture porn’ that offers little social commentary.
Due to this, Don’t Click will undoubtedly divide critics and audiences alike as to whether it fully achieves a cutting dissection of harmful pornography. Its premise that some doors should never be opened, layered with its ability to walk the tightrope between horror and critique.
The initial set up is simple, as Josh (Valter Skarsgård) returns from a drunken night out, to find his college roommate, Zane (Mark Koufos) missing. The only sign of Zane, his laptop, still glowing with a graphic and violent pornography website. Josh seems unsurprised by the content flashing on the screen, as he blacks out, suddenly finding himself in a dark, inescapable cellar; the screams of Zane echoing through the walls, as a deformed holographic man appears. Thus begins a tale of the online viewing habits of one boy and the guilt of the other. The doors to a supernatural world of vengeance opened via a single click in the privacy of a bedroom.
So does Don’t Click fully achieve the balancing act we spoke of earlier? The answer to this is partly. It’s cutaway moments exploring the relationship between Zane and Josh clear in message and tone. However, the ‘torture porn’ elements remain firmly at the core of the film, focussing on the pleasure centres of the body. And the graphic nature of these scenes does often distract from the more profound dialogue on misogyny and addiction.
It is undoubtedly within the divide between horror and social commentary that Don’t Click will divide audiences. The undeniable intelligence of the screenplay, solid performances and design, held in a void between body horror and deeper reflection on our digital world. Consequently relying on the ability of each viewer to see beyond the blood and gore. With this in mind, the resulting reactions are likely to fall into either admiration for the bold choice of subject matter, or disgust at the torture porn content.
However, for me Don’t Click falls into the former category, with moments of terrifying reflection on individual culpability and guilt. And while it may lack the time needed to do justice to the themes at its core. The result is nothing short of a horrifying exploration of individual responsibility in an open, online world. At the same time dissecting the ability of humans to differentiate between reality, fiction, ethics and instant pleasure, in an evermore clouded digital realm.
Director: G-Hey Kim