“The medium is the message” is one of the most debated assertions of the last 100 years. When Canadian philosopher and media critic Marshall McLuhan proposed the idea in the mid-60’s, he was arguing that it is the method of the delivery – radio, TV, newspaper, film – that creates the message. Most of us focus on the superficial content of the message when it is the medium itself we should question and debate. This concept lead to one of McLuhan’s most accurate prophecies, a “Global Village”, where media itself ties us all together. Keep in mind that Mr. McLuhan passed away in 1980, decades before Al Gore invented the Internet and before Facebook and Twitter became a generations-preferred method of contact and information gathering. Perhaps (not ironically at all) it was while viewing the Canadian horror film Antisocial that I kept revisiting my college Media 101 class.
The film opens with the brutal murder of one teen girl by another while they are in the middle of them creating a blog. We then meet coed Sam (Michelle Mylett) just as she fails her Criminology final and must remain at school over holiday break. With little time to recover, Sam is dumped by her boyfriend via video phone. Upon trying to reconnect with him on the social media outlet RedRoom seconds later, she discovers he has un-friended her and changes his status to single. She promptly closes her own account.
With New Year approaching, Sam reluctantly decides to attend a house party with some of her friends. While walking to the party, it appears to the moviegoer (but not necessarily to the characters) that all is not right in the world. People are changing and what seems to be random individual incidents of violence or erratic behavior to the characters are part of a larger picture that we, the viewer, are privy to witness.
When Sam reaches the party, we meet each attendee in a breaking of the “fourth wall” via a montage of their social media accounts. The party barely gets started when even the characters begin to notice that something is wrong. Through a barrage of incoming and outgoing communications (by way of TV, computer and smartphone), the partygoers attempt to get details on what would best be described as a global zombie outbreak. Trapped in the house, things take a turn for the worse when one by one, the five friends start to change. We are now attached to a downward spiral of terror, paranoia and (of course) misinformation.
Director Cody Calahan attempts to tackle the complex and evolving topic of how social media insidiously isolates people while appearing to unite them; but he comes off a bit sophomoric at times. He is a little too direct in driving home the idea that we are only as knowledgeable as the source of the information we seek. In the end, I both get and appreciate what he was trying to do: present his view on the state of worldwide media consumption. From a technical and aesthetic perspective, the film is a success. Mixed media, changing perspectives and visual and sound editing are all handled in a fluid, masterful way.
In spite of some of my less-than-stellar criticism, I still feel that Anitsocial is film to watch. It is for all intents and purposes a horror film that delivers on the terror – and in the end, that is the overall goal. I also feel that time could be kinder to the film. I would like to check it out 5 years from now and see if, like Marshall McLuhan’s thesis, it was ahead of its time.