(Originally published 19 August 2016)
One of the leading semi-trends in Hollywood’s endless crusade to appeal to young morons is this kind of ‘technophobic’ subgenre. Modernising these usual horror and thriller tropes and attributing them to the tech-savvy social media generation. And mostly they suck, probably because they’re written who have no understanding of how the internet and teenagers coalesce.
And it’s not as if these ideas can’t be utilised into great stories-Black Mirror is a great example of this, but it’s intentionally designed to analyse how human desires and predilections are what makes these advances so dangerous. Most of these movies just want a broader ‘Social media is evil because _’ message, which gets washed away by how mind-bogglingly stupid the characters in Unfriended are, or…I don’t know in Friend Request. With all that in mind, even with its hilariously bad trailer and gimmicky premise, Nerve is honestly not that bad.
So where does this go right where the others went wrong? Well, Nerve uses its social media gimmick (in this case, an open source app that allows watchers to set dares for players) to actually say something. The way we desensitise ourselves around the internet is insane, and people have died doing really stupid memes (for no money, unlike this movie). The rules are well laid out and make sense, the pacing is careful and deliberately thought out and there is some legitimate tension in the few of the set-pieces. I even laughed at some of the comments left on the app-it’s so accurate to shithead anonymous commenters in real life! I wish they provided more stuff like that
So the message of this movie is basically ‘these platforms can get out of hand and could lead to some serious consequences’, just told in a flashy, over the top setting. Which is great. While the characters are pretty broadly written, they fit their roles fine and are there to get the social commentary across. Until the end, the message is pretty downplayed for the high octane fun of the dares, so it doesn’t seem preachy or overwrought.
Also, the characters are actually smart in places and come up with creative solutions. I like how they address the police in this situation, it’s not something left up in the air. While I question how the main solution for the Nerve game, it does make sense within the confines of what has been set up, so I’ll let it slide. It’s a cool enough idea.
I’d probably praise this movie more…if the climax wasn’t such a hot mess. I can’t exactly say why without spoiling it, so just trust that all the careful rules and set-up pretty much get thrown out the window for an exciting finale. One of the characters who floats around for most of the film is frustratingly underdeveloped and plays a huge role in the finale, also his get-up made me think he was going to ask if the Warriors were gonna come out to play.
Also there are some technical issues (a lot of the camera work outside of the phones is shitty), and the cast aren’t that strong. Overall, however, I was surprised by this film, which is not something I say a lot lately. It’s not amazing by any means, but it’s social savviness, clever structure and attention to detail make it worth seeing despite some tepid characterisation, hokey acting and a terrible final act. Check it if the premise sounds interesting…if you dare.
(God, did I really just end the review like that?! I am the worst…)