Ron Purtee’s THE SOCIAL MEDIA MASSACRE represents the culmination of an exciting trend in amateur horror cinema, buoyed by the influence – and reach – of the internet. Ultra low-budget disconnected stories running only a few minutes, the shorts cover a range of content but all trace back to the tools of social networking, and competently play on the inherent fears faced by those who share their personal information and upon them. As with all portmanteaus the quality varies immensely from installment to installment, but the commitment to the concept and the variety of premises makes for an often shocking, and always inventive, viewing experience.
THE SOCIAL MEDIA MASSACRE kicked off with A HOLLYWOOD ENDING, which set the maniacal tone for what was to come. It remains my favorite of the series, with the concept of video blogging taken to its logical, demented extremes. It’s the episode that is most devoted to its social-media skewering concept, and smartly doesn’t rely on gory FX to ramp up the tension. It also features the best performance in the eries from Charlie Bussian, who has a subtlety I rarely see in low-budget films. It’s a tight, interesting start to things, and well worth checking out.
Unfortunately, the series takes a rather unfortunate turn with TO SAY GOOD-BYE, which abandons the narrative of the original short to instead present a confusing, somewhat irritating take on suicide. Its connection to social media is loose at best, and the voice-overs feature some embarrassing attempts at accents. In fact, it’s hard to tell what it’s even supposed to be about, and its melodrama clashes with the tone of the rest of the series.
Things pick up significantly with I’M STREAMING DEATH, which features enthusiastic performances from its two female leads. There isn’t much to it – just an unpopular, goth-y girl briefly torturing, and then murdering, an attractive, popular classmate while the events stream online, but it’s fun and plays well into the themes of the series as a whole. There is an unfortunate edit near the end where the camera angle changes, which sadly abandons the concept and pulled me out of the events at the worst possible time, but in all it’s good, intense fun.
The final segment – so far – is the justifiably lauded FROM THE HEART, which returns to the intensity and more complex narrative of A HOLLYWOOD ENDING, but with more of a commitment to grand guignol shocks. Again, the concept is simplistic – an adulterous wife chats with her lover, also her husband’s boss, leading to a gory, TALES FROM THE CRYPT-like climax. The acting is a bit inconsistent, and there’s an iffy effect involving a nipple-slicing, but the shocks hit harder and it builds to an appropriately fun climax. There’s a strange comical stinger at the end involving a voice-over from a character’s mother, but it can be forgiven when the rest of the piece is so engaging.
The SOCIAL MEDIA MASSACRE shorts range from 3 1/2 to 5 1/2 minutes, and the short running time and premise neccesitate some limitations in terms of video quality and style. In three of the pieces the events are supposed to be taking place on web-cam, and the grainy, soft image believably gets that across. Sound issues are minimal, with the dialogue coming through clearly throughout. All of the shorts make great use of music, which is generally the royalty free music available on the Incompetech website by Kevin MacLeod – an absolute Godsend for low-budget film-makers. While the shaky camera work might grow tiresome in a longer piece, at this length it works extremely well.
For those interested in what the series has delivered so far, you’re in luck. Purtee recently announced that the first SOCIAL MEDIA MASSACRE episode in almost a year – entitled FROM THE WOMB – will be dropping soon. It’s a direct sequel to FROM THE HEART, which is a rather massive departure from the ethos of the series thus far. Whether this means a continuation of the inspiration of that installment, or that it’ll stretch the concept too thinly, is yet to be seen. Either way, the SOCIAL MEDIA MASSACRE makes for enjoyable viewing for low-budget horror fans and its frequent moments of ingenuity make up for its inconsistency.
Three Nightmares out of Five – SHOWS POTENTIAL
One Nightmare – No-Budget Perfection, Two Nightmares – Shocking Success, Three Nightmares – Shows Potential, Four Nightmares – Not Much Fun, Five Nightmares – Please Kill Me
Join me this week for an interview with THE SOCIAL MEDIA MASSACRE creator Ron Purtee.
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