Friday, August 07, 2015

You Will Not Connect with Antisocial 2: A Film Review

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Director: Cody Calahan.

Writers: Cody Calahan, Chad Archibald, Jeff Maher.

Cast: Michelle Mylett, Josette Halpert, Stephen Bogaert.

Cody Calahan and Chad Archibald of Black Fawn Films reunite in the sequel to 2013's Antisocial. This viewer is not a fan of the first film, so we already got off on the wrong foot but, having enjoyed Black Fawn's recent release, Bite, there was still hope for redemption. Unfortunately, even with some great atmospheric shots and some decent gore, Antisocial 2, much like the first, is simply uninteresting. While the message that social media turns people into zombies has potential, the concept is overthought and under-executed thus rendering it powerless.

Michelle Mylett as Sam in Antisocial's final scene.

The plot in the second film is driven by an update being installed on the social media site, The Social Redroom. The update will supposedly force everyone to become users—to connect. Suffice it to say, watching the film is about as exciting as waiting for an update to complete. The characters are flat, the acting is uninspired, the script is riddled with exposition, and the story is dull enough to make you want to check your Facebook feed. So much for establishing a connection.

The sequel does not pick up where the original left off, and that's unfortunate. The ending of the first film was arguably the best part, because Sam's character was finally starting to have agency. The final scene instills some excitement, then cuts you off. Surprisingly, the first half hour of the second film is much better than the original, and even carries the action forward. Calahan and his team manage to create a somber, desolate atmosphere that builds tension and an overall feeling of unease. This is exactly what you want in a zombie film. In the first scenes, Sam is isolated, appearing further removed from society, adding to the antisocial vibe. Unfortunately, the film's decline begins shortly thereafter.

Sam gives birth to her baby, and the newborn is immediately stolen from her. The character then shifts gears from survival to retrieving her son. Along the way, she meets a young runaway called Bean who has escaped from her father and the military base she once called home. The two loners seem to form a bond partly based on the fact that they're both classed as “defects” (they've had the operation to remove the tumour caused by The Social Redroom virus). It appears that most people have turned on the “defects,” which could have made for a compelling aspect of the story, but it never lives up to expectations.

Rather than exploiting the disturbing discriminatory side of humanity in an interesting way, the story gets too caught up in the countdown to installation, and an equally underwhelming facet involving Sam and her son. Sam and Bean are kidnapped by military personnel and taken back to the base where Bean's father is conducting experiments on Sam's son. He seems to have developed at an alarming rate and possesses supernatural powers, presumably as a result of the virus. Apparently, three years have passed since his disappearance. Time sure elapses strangely in this film and is libel to catch you off guard. Shifting the plot to Sam's son and his higher powers is a miscue; the story becomes even less believable, and moving the setting from the barren wastelands to the confines of the military testing facility takes away from the outside tension, rendering it less scary.

This haunting image serves as a gruesome warning.

In addition to the story being lacklustre, the acting and character depth leave much to be desired. With the exception of Bean, the film is plagued with flat, unlikable characters. It's hard to tell whether the actors are in fact unskilled or if the script was the bigger problem. The characters are indeed poorly written, with many one-sided conversations and story exposition as the meat of the dialogue. There is an overwhelming feeling of indifference toward the characters in this film, particularly with the protagonist, Sam. If a story produces a general feeling of apathy toward its lead character, it is ultimately doomed.

Luckily, the film is not a total wash; visually, it is fairly satisfying. Calahan and his team do a nice job of maintaining a dark, eerie atmosphere throughout the story, particularly in the scenes on the military base. The lighting is manipulated well, creating a dream-like quality. The special effects are also on-point; the crew even throws in some tricky effects that, while not necessary, are certainly entertaining. That said, the visual appeal is not nearly enough to catapult this film into the category of enjoyable, or even tolerable.

Antisocial 2, much like the first instalment of the series, had the potential to be a successful commentary on society's unhealthy preoccupation with the internet and social media. Unfortunately, a poor script with dull characters and a story that goes off in too many directions makes this film unenjoyable, and almost unwatchable. Great directing and special effects can only take a film so far, and this film barely made it off the starting line. More work and more money would have best been put into the writing department in order to create a more believable and enjoyable story. Antisocial 2 tries to do too much and, in doing so, is successful at very little. If ever you've been considering disconnecting, this would be the time. It will be interesting to see where Black Fawn goes from here. Hopefully in another, more sophisticated direction.

Rating: 4.75/10.

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