Antisocial (2013)

First published by Grolsch FilmWorks

College student Sam (Michelle Mylett) has important news for her boyfriend, but before she can even articulate it, she is dumped by him in a chatroom and made subject to online gossip from strangers. So as she seeks consolation from her old friend Mark (Cody Thompson) at a New Year’s Eve party, it turns out she is not alone in having something foreign, and not entirely welcome,  growing inside her. With people all round the world displaying symptoms (hallucinations, nosebleeds) that lead rapidly to crazed violence, Sam and her five beleaguered friends race online to find both the infection’s source and cure before they too succumb to forces without and within.

“We don’t want to catch your crazy”, says Jed (Adam Kristie) to Kaitlin (Ana Alic), explaining why the others have tied her up. It is a line that alludes to both The Crazies (1973) and The Signal (2007), clear antecedents to which Cody Calahan’s feature debut is greatly inferior. It’s not that Antisocial wants for a new concept to bind together its borrowed tropes. On the contrary, it is high time that our enslavement to social media, and the equally horrifying isolation suffered when we reject the virtual collective, are explored through the tropes of horror. Sadly, however, it is a case of high concept, low returns, as Calahan lines up the usual array of dull co-eds and hurls clichés (mostly of the ‘beleaguered by the undead’ variety, although there is even an exorcism) at them, hoping something will stick. This may set out to upgrade Night of the Living Dead (1968) to the age of The Social Network (2010), but it lacks both the allegorical incisiveness of the former and the smarts of the latter.

What is left feels a somewhat soulless exercise. All the dialogue is perfunctory at best, often merely describing idiotically what we have just seen with our own eyes (“He’s infected”, “Whatever this is, it’s inside now”, etc.). With her sexually ambiguous name and her central rôle in the narrative, Sam is the obvious contender for the film’s ‘final girl’, but we are never given a reason to care what happens to her or her friends. Sam’s ultimate transformation into blood-spattered, axe-wielding, bandana-sporting kickass heroine may be a sop to the fanboys, but it also sits rather oddly with her otherwise meek and sickly comportment. Here the apocalypse is also the singularity, with the online community merging into a zombie-like network infected (and controlled) by a virus. This really is an idea for Generation 2.0 – but the social commentary is short-circuited by Antisocial‘s faulty wiring.

That said, after so many humdrum genre routines, there is some relief to be found in the surreal body horror of the different characters’ hallucination scenes, and the final act is certainly enlivened by everything going truly ape (DIY auto-trepanning and all). It’s as though, having failed to troubleshoot Antisocial and rewrite its code from top to bottom, Calahan has decided instead to try and go at it with a household drill. The results are predictably messy.

© Anton Bitel