Jake Rosenberg’s review published on Letterboxd:
Saw this on a plane on the airline provided app on my phone. The sound mix coming through my headphones was garbage & there were no subtitles available, so I’m sure there’s plenty I missed in regards to dialogue/sound design. Was also seated in between two middle-aged/elderly folk (my dad & sister were seated together, lucky them), so the opening shot of two people tonguing wasn’t awkward at all.
Anyway, the trailers for this made it seem unwatchable, & thankfully it’s only partly that at times. I’d describe this as intermittently super annoying, intermittently very funny, & intermittently genuinely atmospheric. While I have caveats regarding this, it did feel like parties I’ve attended before with people so accurately repugnant & shallow. Disasterpiece score goes crazy hard, the Carpenter comparisons are totally earned. It’s synthy & repetitive in a way you’d expect (not bad things) but also has this modern percussive drive to it that made it stand on its own. The DP also deserves major props, don’t know if the scenes in darkness utilizing phone flashlights/glow sticks were naturally lit, but if not, it was emulated as convincingly as possible. I like the way character backstories emerge in tense situations & escalate as a result, it felt mostly organic & natural. And the setting/premise is too good to spoil, even with the issues I have. It’s basically like if a game of mafia suddenly turned real, incredible. The rules resultantly built in are convincing & I never really questioned anything.
I’d have to agree with my colleague Matt that this is a slasher in name & not much else. The best parodies manage to actually be successful versions of the very thing they’re making fun of. Take Top Secret! The gags are great but they’d be significantly lesser if the action sequences weren’t successful in their own right, thus making the jokes land even better. Or Black Dynamite, where beneath the crude laughs lies a loving homage to blaxploitation. Here, the momentum is too frequently halted by characters talking in circles ad nauseum, such to the point where the tension is deflated & I don’t feel like there’s much danger. Additionally, a good chunk of the script is reading off social media buzz words, not helped by the fact that this is addressed in Twitter/tiktok name drops. I understand that they’re trying to be authentic to millennial culture, whatever that means, but the double edged sword of satire is that if you don’t succeed, you become guilty of the very thing you’re attempting to satirize. Thusly, this movie is trying to make a point about how vapid & stupid its characters (& their generation) are, & at its worst comes across as vapid & stupid as a whole. The most unbearable parts had the words, “Sam Levinson core,” pop into my brain, & I genuinely believe that if I knew nothing about who was behind either project, I’d think this same creative team put out Assassination Nation, even if this is infinitely more watchable & entertaining & better. Finally, the twist isn’t bad but that’s either not an ending or not a very good one.
Like I said, the viewing conditions were less than ideal, tho I think even experiencing the movie properly wouldn’t unlock some grand epiphany for me. But I still enjoyed it! I would watch it again, I will definitely be listening to the score on its own bc it rips, & will seek out articles on how this was shot bc it was seriously impressive. Cast was mostly great, standouts were Pete, Maria Bakalova, & Lee Pace. Maybe it’s just the characters she plays but between this & Shiva Baby, I can’t say I enjoy Rachel Sennot as an actress. Everyone else was solid. The jokes that hit counted for a lot, as did the creepiness of its setting & funny deaths.
Side note: I first heard of this movie last year (before trailers or synopses or anything) when scrolling through Conner O’Malley’s Letterboxd page & saw this yet to be released project. While his role made for a great sight gag, I’d recommend my fellow fans of his not seek this out for him exclusively, as he’s in it even less than David Lynch is in The Fabelmans.