Spree is available to rent or buy now on all major platforms
At what point does fiction become a reality, and where does privacy start and stop? In an online world of clickbait content, personal blogs and viral videos, this question has never been more challenging to answer. Our lives now embedded in the viral world of social media and its strange mix of fantasy vs reality. While at the same time, social media influencers bathe in advertising revenue, product placement and staged reality. Each fame-hungry individual striving for subscribers, likes and follows as they cling onto their brief slice of fame. Over the past year, several horrors and thrillers have reflected this new virtual reality of human existence. For example, Don’t Click intelligently explored the online world of violent porn. And Don’t Look Back took square aim at the public obsession with filming emergencies and tragedies. However, few films have reflected the psychotic need for fame like Spree.
Kurt (Joe Keery) has spent his entire life online. His video channel KurtsWorld96 a diary of his ambitions to make it big as a social-media celebrity. However, Kurt has a problem; his site only has a handful of subscribers. His years of dedication in posting new videos achieving little in creating the fame he desires. While at the same time, a kid he used to babysit has thousands of followers, product tie-ins and fans. However, Kurt has no plans to leave his channel behind; in fact, he has a new idea to increase his fame overnight. A strategy built around his job as a spree driver. And whether they like it or not, it’s his passengers who will become the clickbait he desires, in a deadly live stream—his place and purpose online defined by a psychotic, and darkly humourous need for attention.
Spree is a wildly creative horror/comedy bathed in deliciously dark social satire. It’s 93-minute runtime embedded in a mission to be both audacious and bold. While at the same time, poking and prodding at the boundaries of the classic serial killer story. With a narrative that unpicks the madness of the social media world surrounding us, while also reflecting the moral turpitude of instant fame. That said, the very fact that Spree pushes the boundaries of horror/comedy will undoubtedly create a marmite effect in its popularity; with some viewers feeling nothing but disgust at the actions and motivations of Kurt. While in contrast, others will revel in the movies ability to dissect an online world that is, in its self, often psychotic.
Of course, the concept of killing for fame is nothing new in film, from Natural Born Killers through to the devilishly dark humour of Heathers. And in many ways, one could argue that Spree has a lot in common with the latter. Its ability to lace dark comedy with a dissection of modern culture and trends singing with creativity. But, it is in the character of Kurt, that Spree strikes gold. His behaviour and descent into madness moulded by a need for attention, place and purpose. While at the same time, his floating moral compass jumps wildly from one extreme to the other, in a life built solely on trending topics. Kurt has no offline life, his world seen through a phone screen, his character embedded in a fake reality. And this creates a fascinating dynamic, as we find ourselves pitying him despite the carnage he leaves behind.
Our very act of limited compassion tied to the knowledge that people like Kurt do exist in our online world. And while most are not, and never will be serial killers. Their lives are equally embedded in a false notion that likes and views equate to success and popularity. And it’s here where Joe Keery deserves high praise. His performance full of youthful energy and devilish charm, his big grin hiding the insecurities of a young man who doesn’t fit the world around him. His hopes and wishes twisted by a need for attention at any cost.
Filmed entirely on phones and dash cams, Spree feels like a 93-minute live stream you can’t stop watching. And it is here where Spree pays homage to the darker work of the fantastic Michael Haneke. With director Eugene Kotlyarenko ensuring the viewer is partly accountable for the murderous rampage that ensues, as we casually consume Kurt’s journey. Our need for entertainment, laughter and excitement encouraging Kirk’s actions. And maybe it is here where Spree’s message truly resonates, after all, clickbait, likes and instant fame do not exist without us. And murderers do not achieve immortality without our desire to revisit their actions continually. The internet, social media and the people it creates mere reflections of the world we choose to make.
Director: Eugene Kotlyarenko
Joe Keery also appears in Top TV: Our guide to the best box sets.