Review: Deranged thriller 'Spree' sputters into obnoxious absurdity
Courtesy of RLJE Films
Taking a break from his time on “Stranger Things,” Joe Keery is channeling his inner “Nightcrawler” playing Kurt Kunkle, a huge loser thriving for any sort of social media presence in “Spree.” Known to his “fans” as KurtsWorld96, Kurt is the living definition of a social outcast, his videos barely garner double digits and though he’s followed the influencer playbook religiously, he’s failed to attract the type of audience needed to go viral. And so begins the idea of #TheLesson, a live-stream event from his ride-share vehicle – a.k.a SPREE – in which he picks up unsuspecting victims throughout Los Angeles and kills them for likes and followers.
Obviously meant to be a satire on TikTok and social media influencers in general, asking us how far we would be willing to go for accolades. Writer Gene McHugh and writer/director Eugen Kotlyarenko have built a decent premise that’s ripe for the moment we’re currently experiencing, but the execution – no pun intended – leaves the final product feeling airless and dull.
Nobody will knock “Spree” for its pace, the film - aside from the occasional detour - moves quick: after we get a brief prologue introducing us to KurtsWorld96 and his cringeworthy vlogs, the sociopath sets up shop, peppering his ride with a variety of cameras and GoPros, so he’s guaranteed not to miss one ounce of blood spilled. For a while, the approach and method to Kurt’s madness was engrossing, and then, slowly, becomes a repetitious exercise with no real payoff.
Several sequences, like a scene with his dad, a crappy DJ played by David Arquette, are awkwardly injected into the film and hinder the film’s momentum and undermine Keery’s wild performance. One aspect that anchors a semblance of a plot is when Kurt picks up a comedian named Jessie Adams (Saturday Night Live’s own Sasheer Zamata) who has a sizable online following and becomes obsessed with her for no other reason than he craves her status and profile.
“Spree” is an overload on the mind and body. The filmmakers are consistently populating the screen with live Instagram feeds and YouTube videos, with comment sections running rampant. At one point, Kurt’s GoPro attached to his car flips upside down and it gave me whiplash. You also notice how one dimensional “Spree” is the longer it trails on. For example, certain characters – after a life-threatening incident – keep their live stream going instead of, I dunno, seeking help.
Keery does turn in an insane, Nicolas Cage inspired, performance that’s a sharp turn from Steve Harrington on “Stranger Things,” but there’s very minimal to sink into when you’re watching a maniac go ballistic over Instagram followers. “Spree” wants to call out society on how we’ll readily watch something horrific but then stand by idle and do nothing. Watching “Spree,” you’re powerless to the antics on display, and considering we already have trigger happy nuts who kill innocent people every day, the idea of watching a fictionalized one on screen, in this day and age, didn’t make for a memorable experience.
SPREE will be available on demand starting Friday August 14th. Check your preferred digital retailer.