Over the last few years, the horror genre has slowly but surely taken aim at the ubiquitous role of social media. Both Cam and Alone at Night found horror in the world of online sex and webcam models. And plenty of horror movies have pulled the curtain back on the horrors of influencers (Sissy, Deadcon, The Seed, Dashcam) and our general cultural obsession with Internet fame (Tragedy Girls, Spree, Bodies Bodies Bodies). Early social media horror Unfriended exposed a parent’s greatest fear – cyberbullying. Another under-the-radar horror effort, #Horror or Hashtag Horror, took a more bombastic approach tot he subject. Actress turned director, Tara Subkoff, assembled an impressive adult cast to support its young actors in a tale of
Twelve-year old Sam arrives at a sleepover with other pre-teens who inhabit a completely different social sphere. The sleepover quickly descends into in-fighting and bullying. Soon thereafter the bullying makes its way to the Internet when one of the girls begins posting nasty attack videos. But the bullying takes a backseat when a masked killer shows up intent on stalking the young girls.
#Horror Balances Themes and Subgenres With Mixed Success
One has to credit writer and director Tara Subkoff – she rarely opts for a conventional approach to the material. While there’s basically a slasher format adopted for #Horror, Subkoff adopts few of the tropes for feature-length directorial debut. Though things start with a grisly slaying, the thriller spends much of its runtime focused on its pre-teens’ obsession with selfies, filters, and petty nastiness. On one hand, Subkoff’s co-opting of the slasher narrative to explore social media and cyberbullying is clever. Yet it also means that #Horror drags through its second act and, ultimately, feels tonally uneven. Maybe it nails its social commentary, but it comes at the price of a cohesive viewing experience.
On one hand, Subkoff’s co-opting of the slasher narrative to explore social media and cyberbullying is clever. Yet it also means that #Horror drags through its second act and, ultimately, feels tonally uneven.
Another problem that emerges with #Horror is its actual treatment of its horror – and more specifically slasher – elements. Aside from the fact that the horror takes its time to take center stage, Subkoff seems less comfortable with this aspect of her movie. Yes, #Horror achieves some uncomfortable moments once its killer targets its pre-teen characters. But much of that discomfort stems from the fact that the victims are so young. In this regard, Subkoff makes a movie that’s more ruthless than most slashers. Nevertheless, there’s also a lack of style and over-the-top kills that generally characterize the subgenre. In addition, #Horror isn’t particularly scary or suspenseful. And the mystery around the killer isn’t really emphasized, nor is the reveal surprising.
#Horror Effectively Mines the Horror of Pre-Teen Life With Social Media While Overwhelming With Its Visual Style
Arguably, #Horror will win or lose viewers with its stylistic indulgences. That is, Subkoff repeatedly weaves social media-inspired graphics – not unlike Snapchat filters – into the movie. These visual elements pop up frequently throughout the movie and – depending on your perspective – often feel both overwhelming and distracting. It’s an aggressive visual style that may wear out its welcome sooner than later for some audiences. At times, #Horror borders on being a bit obnoxious.
At times, #Horror borders on being a bit obnoxious.
For what’s an indie horror movie, Subkoff recruited a handful of familiar faces to fill out background roles. How long – and how much of a role – these actors stick around varies widely. Still Balthazar Getty, Natasha Lyonne, Taryn Manning, Timothy Hutton (The Dark Half, The Temp) and Chloe Sevigny all turn up in supporting roles. That’s a pretty impressive supporting cast. But #Horror spends most of its time with its young cast of pre-teen actresses, In this regard, Subkoff excels at pulling back the curtain on the interpersonal dynamics that underlie bullying. If #Horror is mixed in its actual horror elements, it nearly perfectly captures the cruelty and pettiness of adolescence. While none of the young actors will be familiar to audiences, all of the actresses provide a window into the minds of pre-teens that feel genuine.
#Horror Straddles a Fence Between Prescient and Trainwreck
Full disclosure – it took a few tries to get through this movie. And those attempts were spread over time. Some reviewers appreciated what Subkoff was going for with #Horror – there’s certainly more to the movie than its basic slasher setup. Whether #Horror actually nails its subtext – or if it’s even watchable – is debatable. Other horror movies have certainly tackled the same subject matter with much better results. What’s here is an often plodding and confusing effort that veers into obnoxious territory with its social media graphics. This one fails as a social commentary and as a horror movie, leaving it as more of window into the nastiness of bullying.