Technology, Sex, and Stalking Collide in Campy Queer Horror Exploited (2022)
First Non-Festival Release: January 28, 2022 (Premiere)
Director: Jon Abrahams
Writer: Carl Moellenberg, Anthony Del Negro
Runtime: 81 Minutes
Starring: Makenzi Vega, Jordan Ver Hoeve, Andrew Matthew Welch
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Although disappointed he cannot afford to attend New York University like he always wanted, Brian (Jordan Ver Hoeve) is excited nonetheless to go away to university at his local institution. Fifteen minutes from home, Brian opts to live in the dorms to still get the college experience. His roommate is sophomore Jeremy (Andrew Matthew Welch), who spends his time on the wrestling team and then wrestling in their room with his girlfriend, Lexy (Makenzie Vega). All is well until Brian discovers a flash drive with hundreds of videos of the room’s previous occupant: Caleb (Colin Bates). To Brian, it looks like Caleb was an online cam star who died on screen during his final video call. Now Brian must figure out what happened to Caleb, lest the same thing happen to him.
Unabashedly gay and campy, Exploited is an easy watch with plenty of fun to be had by enthusiastic viewers.
Simplistic storytelling works to the low-fi confines of Exploited. Technology infused horror often have the tendency to over-explain or over-indulge in fantastic world-building. Exploited takes a minimalistic approach to maximize the realistic ways someone can be deceived through technology. There is a real fear when interacting with people online that they are not who they claim to be. This fear is potentiated for queer people due to the specific violence faced by them in society and the real-life horror stories of gay bashing abetted by the use of online spaces.
It’s nice to see a gay horror film with multiple shades of character representation. Living in the moralistic grey, allows for true development to happen for all its characters. Jeremy’s journey is the most complex and wrought with the most heartache while Brian has a more typical coming out story. Still, even presumed antagonists get more depth added to their character when all is revealed. The film does lose points for the predictability of its antagonist’s motivations, even when it gets so close to subverting that point. With more development this could have been more earned or less cliched.
For the most part, the cast does a fine job. Aside from a few off-putting moments here and there, the performances are genuine. Makenzi Vega and Andrew Matthew Welch both bring an extra spark to their performances as a couple falling out due to revelations brought to light about one of them. Some of the other cast members go overboard and tend to over act when situations do not call for it. For so many fresh faces, it makes sense that there is an over eagerness at play. Given the college setting, it doesn’t distract from the film too much.
Exploited is a to-the-point, sexy tech horror thriller with enough camp to keep viewers entertained when the action simmers. Touching on a variety of topics like revenge porn, the exploitation of sex workers, and lack of anonymity of the internet, it interweaves these modern issues into the story with enough finesse to feel natural. While it does have its detractors like its on the nose dialogue, laughable electricity effects, and patchy acting, it remains an even-paced thriller with enough substance to be enjoyed with a pair of forgiving eyes.
Don’t come into Exploited expecting the most polished or sophisticated erotic horror thriller. Instead, understand that this low budget indie film will have some glaring faults but will otherwise captivate with its fresh take on sexual dynamics and manipulation. While predictable and saccharine at times, Exploited allows its queer characters to embody a wide range of personalities that give them agency in their stories. Even though it may lack the blood or scares one might hope for in a slasher-esque type setup, it makes up for it with plenty of hilarious moments that ensure that film isn’t taking itself too seriously. It won’t be for everyone but Exploited is a solid indie horror for LGBTQ fans aching for representation in the genre.
Overall Score? 6/10