The 6th day of 2018 Screamfest ended on a high note with the horror thriller short, HEARTLESS, and the thrilling, paranoia inducing feature film, YOU DIE – GET THE APP, THEN DIE. Both films take contemporary issues and explore the terrifying consequences of what happens when people are pushed beyond their breaking point. They both delve into the psychology of individuals who are put in difficult positions and challenge audience members to question their own morality.
In HEARTLESS the psychology of a woman oppressed by sexism is explored in a bloody, tongue in cheek, and horrific way. The hook immediately draws you into the narrative, as you are primed to piece together what is occurring. Overtly sexist scenes are somewhat triggering but are so deliberate that they are comical. The exaggerated gruesome killings make HEARTLESS feel ironically lighthearted and campy. As the narrative cycles from present to past, the audiences learn of what one woman is willing to do to break the glass ceiling.
The feature film, YOU DIE – GET THE APP, THEN DIE has a very relatable premise particularly to those who enjoy immersive theater and alternative reality games. As you can imagine from the title, the film is about individuals who find a strange app downloaded on their phone and must discover how to avoid dying when the timer runs out. When you suspend disbelief, the horror of this film really comes from the thought that something like this could happen. How many times have you left your phone unattended? Or allowed someone you know to borrow your phone? Or put trust in someone you did not know very well?
On the surface this film is about chaos theory: how one minor event can have large-scale, irreversible consequences. Along with using very talented actors, Alessandro Antonaci, Stefano Mandalà, and Daniel Lascar, who all wrote and directed the film, created believable characters and a compelling narrative that communicates this life lesson eloquently. The enticing Italian scenery and use of subtitles provides a unique backdrop that deepens the narrative.
Additionally, the camera angles and use of an iPhone creates creepy jump scares that keep the audience invested. After a somewhat slow build, the movie really picks up towards the end where audience members are faced with a moral dilemma. I personally did not like the representation of the psychologist character in not upholding ethical standards of the profession, despite being skillfully performed by Micol Damilano. Although extremely common, these kinds of portrayals of therapists in the media create barriers to individuals seeking treatment. However, the last part of the film was very compelling and stimulates an interesting discussion among your peers upon leaving the theater. How much is your life worth to you? What are you willing to do to keep it?
Overall, YOU DIE – GET THE APP, THEN DIE was a hauntingly, eerie film. But, it may not hit you until you leave the theater, look at your phone, and feel a sense of anxiety and paranoia as you wait for something to happen.