Shook (2021) Will Not Leave You Shaking
First Wide Release: February 18, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Jennifer Harrington
Writer: Alesia Gildewell, Jennifer Harrington
Runtime: 88 Minutes
Starring: Daisye Tutor, Emily Goss, Nicolas Posener
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Mia is a popular beauty vlogger and social media star with an adoring fanbase. A serial killer with a proclivity for killing dogs, graduates to murdering people. The first target is a fellow co-star of Mia’s at a paparazzi and promotion event she attended. Shaken by the proximity of the kill, Mia decides to turn a leaf and focus on positivity and helping others. This, however, isn’t done for the right reasons, as she knows that by posting a sad video telling her fans that she is sacrificing a fun night of livestreaming with friends to dogsit for her sister, she can stay relevant. When she returns home, a series of startling events begin. She is soon forced to play a series of games to protect her friends and family from being killed.
Shook is a disjointed and eye-rolling venture into the horrors of social media.
One of the hallmarks of social media horror as of late is that the main character or characters are always revolting people and Shook is no different. Obviously, bad people can be great characters, but there’s very few redeeming qualities for anyone thought up in this universe and, what's worse, nearly everyone in the cast overacts. Mia isn’t even a compelling character because her motivations are so undefined. Why was Mia absent for her mother’s death? It’s implied for social media but there’s no talk about the actual want. Is it fame? Power? Money? Attention? It doesn’t even go so far as likes or follows. All she cares about is her brand, which, to this film, amounts to doing makeup. Is the shallowness and pointlessness a feature of the film or a flaw? Who knows?
The dangers of selfishness and vanity within influencer culture are on blast in almost every horror film with a digital twist. It’s been done to death but has yet to be done well. Teetering between dull melodrama for a young audience while simultaneously reaching to an out-of-touch and less social media savvy older group too, Shook struggles to secure an audience or tone with its rhetoric and scares. The integration of social media into the horror is also dubious at best. Intercuts of text messages, videos, and other screens of information are transposed onto the scenery. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. The dialogue also feels stilted and awkward. I often give this criticism of horror films focusing on social media because they often do such a poor job depicting how internet speech is actually used. Shook is not an exception here.
Outside of the core premise, I just don’t think Shook is a well-made movie. I can’t tell what Harrington is going for here. At times, it feels like it is leaning more satirical/comedic and others it just feels aimless. It drags considerably, with several mini climaxes before an ultimately unsatisfying resolution. The inclusion of the dog murderer subplot makes little sense even with its explanation, which sets the foundation for one of the two most obvious twists one could think of for this sort of film. There are also talks of way more sounds happening than ever did happen. There are moments where we would hear footsteps or banging. And then, way later in the film we hear Mia claim that she hears intruders, but there’s no sound to be heard by the audience. It might be a continuity issue, or it might be an editing issue. Regardless, the sound quality is so low that I can barely hear what is driving the plot of the film.
There is very little about Shook that makes for a pleasant viewing experience. It is filled with irritating characters, bizarre plot devices, and enough contrived twists to have your eyes rolling out of their sockets. Overall, this social media cautionary tale is more annoying than horrific and more pedestrian than intelligent. Feel free to like, share, and follow other ventures in horror and click off Shook’s page.
Overall Score? 4/10