Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Killer App (2017) - Movie Review

The plot: Young programmer Jessie (Ashley Rickards) is chosen to be part of a team workshop at TITAN, a tech company run by her estranged father Springer (Jonny Rees). However, after her colleague Mateo (Will Carlson) takes credit for her work, she designs what she describes as an “anti-social network” called KillList, an app that allows users to tag friends and enemies. As tensions rise in the TITAN offices, people listed as "enemies" start turning up dead. It’s up to Jessie to find what is going on before someone decides to make her their new enemy.

Rickards is in a constant mode of discomfort throughout the entire film, almost as if she is literally uncomfortable in her character’s skin. To be fair, I wouldn’t be too good with the dialogue she’s given here, but she could have at least made it look a bit less awkward to say. Lancaster is bland as hell, same with romantic interest Ian (Skyler Maxon) and token mean girl Stacey (Niki Koss), and his position in the plot is both unnecessary and a complete ass-pull. An incredibly obvious ass-pull, granted, but an ass-pull nonetheless.
Rees is ostensibly the villain and he plays it as such, using technological dehumanization as basically his only character trait, but that all ends up being useless since this is one of those films that thinks it’s being clever by presenting an obvious bad guy but then going “FOOLED YOU!”. Manny Perez just takes up space as the resident police detective, and Mario Revolori shows that he isn’t nearly at the same level as his brother Tony.

Presentation-wise, this is one of the most obnoxious films I’ve yet to cover on this blog and the irritation begins the second that the film does. I have no real problem with the use of stock footage in film on principle, but when it’s both this over-used and ultimately pointless to what it is being intercut with, it’s impossible not to take issue with. Add to that the extremely plain cinematography combined with egregious post-production effects to resemble data fragmentation and computer static (we’ll pretend that that last one is even a thing in the first place) and the desperately-trying-to-be-exciting dubstep soundtrack, and you have a recipe for annoyance. It takes the idea of design aesthetic and pushes it so far that it makes just the simple act of looking at this film into a test of will and patience.

That, and trying to pay attention to what’s happening behind all the garish over-stylization. I’m immediately feeling bad that I gave The Circle such a hard time when I reviewed it because at least it had ideas and concepts and reasons why it was a story involving technology. By contrast, this film seems far more interesting in basic slasher movie conventions than making any grand statements about the use of technology. You’ve got the disposable characters/cannon fodder, you’ve got the attempts at moral ambiguity that just make the leads look like the bigger monsters, and you’ve got the near-constant run-around concerning who is ultimately behind it all that ends up discarding whatever decent ideas it had in favour of just more of the same.
Everything taking place in the offices of a tech company ends up feeling inconsequential, taking a backseat to having stilted actors deliver stilted dialogue that is desperately trying to seem hip with what the cool kids are into but in a way that is both formless and pushing for buzzwords. So many technical terms just get regurgitated throughout, none of which are given real context or even legibility through the delivery, resulting in a film that is all conversation and no action.

Well, no action as far as what actually constitutes as such. Aside from reviving old-school slasher stereotypes, it also seems bent to bring back Hollywood Hacker stereotypes as well because there’s a lot of scenes where the simple act of typing on a keyboard is meant to be thrilling or intriguing. This, in a way, ends up highlighting what this film’s defining issue is: It has a concept involving technology and computer programs but doesn’t really know what to do with it beyond the surface. 
Likely piggybacking off of recent cinematic trends involving fear concerning the widespread use of technology, this film just ends up using those trends as a backdrop for far less interesting ideas. An aborted subplot in the film involves the TITAN AI Andie, her access to the technology within the TITAN offices and whether or not she is doing things because she was hacked… or if they are just her own actions. I’m probably making this out to be like the second coming of Skynet, and it honestly does start out with that tone. But no, rather than asking any questions at all about the use of technology, it just sticks to the usual call of “humans are the evil behind technology, not the technology itself”. Given the increased use of personal assistants and automated living, this just ends up being a weak substitute for what may have been a better film. I say “may” because, judging by the production values, I doubt they would have done much with it to begin with.

All in all, this is cinematic shovelware. The acting is painfully awkward, to the point where it looks like some of the actors actually are in pain, the visual style makes just looking at the production a chore and not one worth the effort, and the writing is so plain as to be quite unpleasant, forgoing even a token attempt at technological commentary for the sake of reheated slasher shenanigans. This isn’t just bad and something that I genuinely think I wasted my time with, but it also makes me retroactively feel bad for other films that I’ve criticised in the past like The Circle, Nerve and even Diary Of A Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul when it got to discussing Internet culture. To bother trying to discern textual themes here would be give the film enough credit that it even bothered to include them in the first place, and going by everything else here, I highly doubt that.

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