The more I watch filmmakers around me look for the complete film package, or follow a formula or trend or perhaps a gimmick of FX, the more I sit back and marvel at films like STREAMER. Simple, dark, emotional and all too real - writer, director, producer, editor, and actor Jared Bratt in my opinion understands reality horror. Joined by producer and cinematographer Vincent Pun, STREAMER's cast and crew only numbered seven total against the Canadian city backdrop. STREAMER follows the self-named Jared as he walks a very dangerous line between reality and fantasy with a woman named Ivy (Tanya Lee). A very lonely man in an isolated apartment, Jared opens the film with an honest and vulnerable YouTube video monologue baring his pain and soul. Using the internet and technology to not only speak of his angst as multi-faceted tools of voyeurism, Jared's existence is work, sleep, eat and subscribing to a free webcam website focusing on sexually playful women who like to have fun through webcams.
As Jared becomes infatuated with the idea of Ivy and creating a world with her, he realizes that the barrier of reality and fantasy is shattered as the object of his affection lives in the same building as he does. Crossing that line, he befriends her and grows a friendship with words, actions and feelings, drawing them closer. As the friendship develops, Jared's anticipation and wanting to take his friendship with Ivy to the next level is drawing him closer to heartbreak, madness and pain as the perception of their relationship is two very different things. Jared assumes that Ivy is ready to take the next step as the fantasy gets closer to his reality, but is she really? His mind becomes immersed with paranoia, envy and hate towards not only the reality of Ivy and her image, but also her boyfriend (Brennan Pedde) who has her heart.
STREAMER is one of my favorite films this year. For me, it is about the connection Bratt forms on so many levels in horror storytelling. STREAMER is that madness many people face when they want something that they can't have and slowly building a world in their minds and hearts that justifies anything insane or dark that may end up destructive and emotional. The film itself is compact on many levels. Focusing on very simple sets, straight forward shot compositions, focused dialogue and relying on performances to carry the film and not saturating visual horror ques. Painful as any film that I have watched going back several years, STREAMER kept me occupied during the near 80-minute running time. Creating interesting characters and chemistry that are based very much in reality with their look, dialogue and surroundings.
I feel STREAMER found visual influence and cues in the lighting, camera work, framing and angles from modern Asian horror. Scenes where Bratt lays next to the laptop waiting, the flooding of light that illuminates the apartment, the laundry room, and more, are ghostly and bathed in shadow with just enough detail outside of the flooded image of the weary Jared to frighten. Besides tapping into the fear of not knowing your neighbor, we see this style and technical effectiveness harness a dread that grows similar to the JU-ON films. This atmosphere and fear is achieved also by executed sound work and edit that is implemented effectively throughout. The knocking on the front door while Bratt sits on the floor waiting. The sound of the thud as Jared's head hits the curb or the typing of the keys and the voice distortion as "Mr. Darcy." I felt the sound work elevated this film, building the audio side of a shattering mind. The growing tension, connecting emotion and engulfing reality finds its foundation with a truly brilliant score by composer Jen Gorman. Gorman composition finds a balance between the silence and madness taking the emptiness and flooding it with noise that reflects the moments and obsessions that are going on inside Jaret's mind. Computer modem dial up pulses, the connection of doors, ghostly voices and more blended with haunting instrumentals. It has the crazy feel we know Bratt will reach and succumb to.
Bratt and Pun are smart in the writing and portrayals of the character/setting connection with space and light. Look at scenes like the park photo shoot which has a deeply vulnerable feeling like a lost dream versus the one of the final scenes with Ivy and Jared together facing the truth within the box shape of his apartment. A lot of symbolic and visual contrasts that reflect the personas of Jaret and "The Woman" versus "Mr. Darcy" and Ivy. Another aspect is some of the shot selections which at times expands their world with layers, colors and space. Shots like the refracted image inside the camera body as he calls her or the framing of Jaret’s eyeball, intimacy and connection that people who have ever felt that way understand. All these elements build a foundation of their story
For me, STREAMER is drawn out during certain scenes. The film’s pace is a question. While the development of their relationship works, scenes like his mental torment and his wait for her to be on the free webcam site feel like they hold a bit to long. Yes, the film is only 80 minutes long but lingering moments, scenes and sequences like that hurt the tension and pace. I am not sure if a tighter edit or reshoot would have resolved this. Also, Bratt's performance is a bit overdramatic at times which may come from him handling so many stages of this film. You want to feel for his character. You want to connect with his suffering, happiness, jealously and madness, however, it is lost at times pushing the performance moment for a bit too long or not fully being there for the character. With that being said, it is quality, basic, emotional and connecting storytelling. Even with these observations, I found STREAMER to be everything that true horror should entail without the CGI, bloodletting, cursing and sexual overload. It’s simple, hard to watch and offers a finale that is sharp, powerful and a complete sequence that gives you a punch to the gut. Not a date movie for sure but suffering piece, STREAMER is a gem for 2017.