If you watched either the Netflix or Hulu documentaries on the ill-fated Fyre Festival, you’re probably familiar with the concept of ‘influencers‘. Like trolls and ‘food porn’, ‘influencers’ are just another unfortunate side-effect of social media. But somewhere in the midst of all that vapid glamour is a good horror movie waiting to happen. To date, the horror genre has provided no shortage of commentary on the dangers of our social media-obsessed culture. Over the last several years, we’ve had good (Unfriended, Tragedy Girls, Spree), mixed (The Den), and just plain bad (#Horror, #FollowMe, Friend Request) takes on social media horror. Now we finally have the genre’s attempt at cutting ‘influencers’ down to size – Shook. Yes, as in ‘I’m so shook’, for those of you not familiar with Urban Dictionary.
Social media influencer, Mia, enjoys a large following on her makeup Instagram site. But when a mysterious dog killer inexplicably targets and murders another influencer, Mia opts out of a party to spend the night dog-sitting for her sister. However, before Mia can settle in and relax, her sister’s strange neighbour, Kellan, begins repeatedly calling her. Soon Mia learns that Kellan has more on his mind than liking her Instagram posts. Trapped in her sister’s house, Kellan forces Mia into an increasingly disturbing series of mind games.
Uneven Tone and Scattered Focus Drop Shook’s Q-Score
Throughout Shook there’s hints here and there of potential. Somewhere in its roughly 90-minute runtime, director Jennifer Harrington has a good movie. Or at least a good idea for a social media horror movie. In its opening scene, for instance, Shook promises a darkly satirical takedown of ‘influencer’ culture. Plus Harrington orchestrates a wonderfully brutal death scene involving a high-heel shoe. And if Shook feels uneven, it compensates with enough twists in the story, along with some well-earned suspense, to keep you watching. Even if it’s not always as good as promised, Shook does enough to justify your time.
Among the myriad of problems, Harrington borrows too much from better movies.
Unfortunately, Shook is frequently not very compelling stuff. Among the myriad of problems, Harrington borrows too much from better movies. As a result, Shook suffers by comparison when it can’t deliver the same intensity or discomforting violence. Mia’s cellphone conversations with her stalker, ‘Kellan’, hue too closely to much better movies, including When a Stranger Calls and Scream. Kellan’s twisted games feel too much like an anemic entry in the Saw franchise. But Shook’s biggest sin is its failure to really cash in on its promised critique of ‘influencers’. Nothing in the movie ever comes close to that opening scene where the camera pulls back to reveal that a ‘red carpet gala’ is just an empty back alley. In that moment, Harrington promises a brutal commentary on the emptiness of our social media culture. Yet as the movie progresses, the increasingly convoluted twists take precedence over the more satirical elements.
Shook Benefits From a Strong Lead Performance and Better-Than-Expected Character Arc
With the majority of its action confined to a single setting, Shook asks a lot of star Daisye Tutor. As ‘influencer’ Mia, Tutor delivers a strong, sympathetic performance. Her performance is all the more impressive considering the character’s initial shallow nature. One doesn’t expect to find much to like about her. But Tutor adds a surprising amount of depth to ‘Mia’, which in no small part reflects a screenplay that offers her an actual character arc. Even if Shook never fully nails its commentary on the often shallow nature of social media culture, Harrington’s story finds redeeming qualities in its lead character. Aside from Tutor’s performance, Emily Goss has fun with her supporting role as Mia’s put-upon sister. While the performance borders on broad, it injects some fun into the tedious climax.
Shook Not Likely To Have Much Influence on Horror Fans
Though it’s fine enough as a diversion, Shook rarely hits its intended marks. On the one hand, Shook lacks the visceral shocks of those horror movies from which it borrows. It’s less Saw, more Would You Rather. And while Harrington wants to say something about ‘influencers’ and our social media-obsessed culture, she never quite articulates a coherent theme. Still Harrington produces enough early suspense and later twists to keep you watching to see how it ends.