Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 32 minutes, Director – Eugene Kotlyarenko
A rideshare driver (Joe Keery) goes on a livestreamed killing spree in the hope of gaining more online followers.
Since the release of Unfriended back in 2014 we’ve seen the release of a number of inventive screen-based stories from the likes of Searching to Host. All using the likes of computer and phone screens to tell their story, now with Spree another unique angle is taken. In an age when ‘influencer’ has seemingly become a job title thanks to online platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and Twitch it seems that gaining an online following has become a deep desire for so many. And that’s exactly what Kurt (Joe Keery) craves. While it seems that everyone around him has skyrocketed into wealth and fame from an online presence he remains stuck on single digit followers after over ten years of making videos and livestreaming content. However, Kurt has come up with a plan, which he refers to as #thelesson, to grow his followers in the space of one night, hoping to get the help of his ‘friend’; high-profile internet personality Bobby (Joshua Ovalle) on whom he is relying on a share from. The only downside is that Kurt’s plan involves killing the people who enter the rideshare vehicle that he drives, working for a company called Spree.
Kurt’s taxi is decorated with multiple cameras on almost every window so that he can show the world everything that happens to him, and more importantly the people he kills. While initially his murders are seemingly targeted towards racists, homophobes, bigots and those with strong right-wing beliefs eventually Kurt goes out of control and his obsession with popularity and viewers leads him into another type of spree – likely the title’s intention.
The initial basis for the film is interesting, and seeing the world of vloggers and internet culture caught in this way does bring the viewer into the film, however once the bloodshed begins the tone begins to get darker with every event. Feeling less like Taxi Driver and more like Joker – which itself was seemingly inspired by Taxi Driver – Kurt’s sanity rapidly deteriorates as his jealously of anyone with more viewers and followers grows. And yet for much of the film this seems to be the only idea, an actual hint of a plot doesn’t properly come into play until about half an hour towards the end, when all barriers are removed. The piece descends into a stream of nihilistic blood and death. You wait for it to end, thinking at any point that it can’t go any further with what it shows and yet continues to go further and further in what it shows, almost going too far over the edge and becoming too much for the viewer to actually sit through.
It’s also during these final stages that the film almost seems to be trying to make some form of comment about the kind of lifestyle and psychosis that it’s depicting, and about the world of internet culture as a whole. Yet by this point it’s almost far too late and instead of being anything of interest it, if anything, simply disconnects the audience from the film even more as, unlike those watching and commenting on Kurt’s stream – who believe that everything they see is just an elaborate prank, because, of course, everything on the internet is fake – there just isn’t enough to properly connect to and engage with, especially when most of the characters are as unlikable and unsympathetic as they are. All of it simply spiralling into bleak intensity. Straying away from the jet-black comedy tones that it starts with and travelling along the lines of a fiercely excessive meta-horror. Kurt may be a five star driver, but his world is far from it.
Joker in an Uber, with less laughs.