Antisocial: Canadian Social Media Horror Not Likely to Trend

Canadian horror movie, Antisocial, hit the film festival circuit way back in 2013. As if often the case with smaller movies, Antisocial was just one of those movies that fell under the radar. With its story of a social media site embedded with a virus that turns users into ‘rabid zombies’, Antisocial touches on themes even more relevant today. Apparently, someone was happy enough with the movie to produce a follow-up years later. So is Antisocial scary enough to make you delete your Facebook accounts? Or is it ‘fake news’ in today’s horror market?

Synopsis

After her boyfriend breaks up with her on a video chat, college student Sam same decides to join her friends at a small New Year’s Eve party. Early in the evening, news broadcasts detail seemingly random violent attacks in the city. As the night progresses, the attacks intensify and increase in number – and they’re happening across the globe. As a more information leaks out about this rapidly spreading disease Sam and her friends board themselves inside their home. But when the symptoms start to who up in the group, the danger isn’t just outside on the streets. It’s locked inside with them.

Antisocial ‘Blocks’ its Own Socially Relevant Commentary with Weak Screenplay

Somewhere in Antisocial is an interesting concept. Neither the first movie to use zombies as social allegory nor tackle the viral nature of social media, Antisocial still had a niche it could have carved for itself. And Canadian horror movies have successfully touched on similar ideas. In the 1970’s David Cronenberg’s Rabid tread on similar ground. Arguably, Bruce McDonald’s brilliantly eccentric Pontypool – where a virus embeds itself in the English language – comes a little closer. And over the last few years, several horror movies have centred social media as their source of horror. Some of these movies have been good (#FromJennnifer, Cam); others fell flat (#FollowMe, Cell). Regardless, Antisocial’s targeting of our selfie-obsessed social media culture had lots of room to deliver some ‘biting’ social commentary.

… Chad Archibald and Cody Calahan’s screenplay hits us over the head with its literal ‘viral social media makes us a mindless hoard’ with expository-laden dialogue.

Alas, Antisocial’s undercooked screenplay never really executes its own concept. The idea of a virus embedded in a social media platform – in this case, Facebook stand-in, The Social Redroom – should have been ripe for subtext. But Antisocial never really uses The Social Redroom, or our addiction to being ‘connected’, effectively to generate more resonating scares. On the one hand, Chad Archibald and Cody Calahan’s screenplay hits us over the head with its literal ‘viral social media makes us a mindless hoard’ with expository-laden dialogue. And this may be the problem. That is, Antisocial ‘tells us’ what should make it scary. Yet the movie never really embeds the viral nature of social media into its own narrative outside some heavy-handed moments.

Dull Stretches Dilute Potency of a Few Standout Scenes

By and large, Antisocial drags for chunks at a time without much of interest happening. Though writer and director Calahan crafts a few strong moments, he doesn’t create any sustained atmosphere or tension. Stuff happens now and then, and characters brood and explain things in between these scenes. Still, when Antisocial does things right, it hints at what could have been for the movie. For instance, Calahan’s opening wherein two girls’ livestream inexplicably ends in brutal violence is pretty chilling stuff. It’s also the movie’s best statement on social media. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait for the movie’s admittedly queasy climax for anything that will stand out.

… Calahan’s opening wherein two girls’ livestream inexplicably ends in brutal violence is pretty chilling stuff.

Like the rest of the movie, Antisocial’s performances are fine, but no one is probably going to blow you away. Specifically, the cast is capable and more than up to the challenge of the movie. In particular, Michelle Mylett’s ‘Sam’ is likable, and Mylett convincingly hits all the right notes. If the movie has a strength, it’s Steph Copeland’s score. While Antisocial lacks much in the way of atmosphere and mood, Copeland’s contributions come close to breathing in more life into the movie. Certainly, she’s a bright spot of talen in what’s otherwise a largely dull movie.

Antisocial Joins a Growing List of Forgettable ‘Zombie’ Message Movies

When Antisocial debuted in 2013, zombie movies still hadn’t run out of steam. For example, it’s only been the last two to three years where we’ve witnessed declining rating The Walking Dead juggernaut. Pandemics will always be inherently frightening. And our social media obsession has only worsened since the movie’s release. That is, Antisocial was well-positioned to be one of those horror movies whose themes became only more relevant with time. Instead, Antisocial feels like just another tired ‘zombie message’ movie. Outside of a few good scenes, it’s a monotonous movie that audiences are likely to quickly forget.

THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: C

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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