Spree (2020) is a Tense Yet Familiar Livestream
First Wide Release: August 14, 2020 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Eugene Koltyarenko
Writer: Eugene Koltyarenko, Gene McHugh
Runtime: 93 Minutes
Starring: Joe Keery, Sasheer Zamata, David Arquette
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Kurt Kunkle (Joe Keery) is a rideshare driver with dreams of becoming a social media star. He has been meticulously planning his rise to stardom for quite some time and he’s decided that the day has finally come to set his plans into motion. He turns his cameras on and begins awkward conversations with his various passengers before things get twisted. Along the way he crosses paths with a famous comedian (Sasheer Zamata), his deadbeat father (David Arquette), a pop superstar (Sunny Kim), a young social media star he used to babysit (Joshua Ovalle), and so many others before his final broadcast.
A disjointed and violent character study, Spree shocks without showing much substance.
Spree is a really frustrating watch. It lacks greatly in plot and story development, which in turn makes the development of the characters odd. This does, however, feel like the point. Much like a spree killing, Spree is erratic, and the carnage unfolds in a way that doesn’t make much sense. There is this overwhelming feeling that something is off the entire time in Spree. Most of the time this comes from a feeling of making the viewer feel secondhand embarrassment, which I feel is the laziest form of making someone uncomfortable in film in my opinion. Regardless, it’s tense, awkward, and uncomfortable which is exactly the director’s vision here, so credit's due. Unfortunately, it also drags a lot. From the beginning to the middle and the end, this film just feels bloated.
While most of the film is documented in the rideshare’s various cameras, sometimes footage is pulled from other places like social media, security cameras, and other people. This adds to the confusion while aiding the gimmick by keeping the film feeling dynamic and suspenseful as we have don’t always have an idea who is filming or where the action is exactly taking place. The livestream chat added another element to the film that overstimulates viewers. There’s a lot going on without there actually being a lot going on in terms of story.
This would be fine if the characters weren’t so grating. Every character is absolutely awful with the exception of Jessie, and even then, she had her moments. Her big monologue about deleting social media falls flat. What could have been something thought provoking about the benefits and issues with how we interact on social media felt more like a baby boomer’s scolding about how kids are on their phones too much.
In fact, it seems that the message the film wants to send is that social media is inherently bad. Everyone who cares about their social media is portrayed as annoying and entitled then end up paying for their attitude. In regard to Kurt specifically, social media pushes people to self-destruct in real time and document it for others to exploit. This then gets linked to the access of violence and sex on the internet. The film posits that social media leads to these things. It feels very much like an after school special and reads just as insightful. The only good social commentary, in my opinion, to be gleaned from Spree comes from its portrayal of white male entitlement. This is exhibited in the characters of Kurt, Miles, and Mario in the various ways they attempt to control Jessie.
Both Keery and Zamata give strong performances against the backdrop of livestreaming mayhem. Keery makes being awkward and uncomfortable creepier than usual while not delving into a more stereotypical portrayal of this type of character. Zamata oozes confidence and commands the screen when onstage and on camera, embodying her character perfectly. The rest of the supporting cast do a good job blending in, which is good considering there are way more stars here than one would expect. David Arquette, Mischa Barton, Kyle Mooney, and Jessalyn Gilsig are among the strongest of this group.
Overall, Spree is an uncomfortable watch more by Koltyarenko’s decision to lean into cringe and awkward humor rather than tense or frightening situations. It isn’t quite developed enough to say anything that hasn’t been said before or anything that is terribly compelling. At the end of the day, Spree is an average horror thriller that is a perfectly brainless piece of entertainment to watch if you are bored. Feel free to stream if you are a fan of unhinged characters and wacky violence that almost surely would not make it past content screeners on a real app.
Overall Score? 5.5/10