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Shook (2021) Review

Shook is the latest in a recent wave of horror films centred around social media influencers. Films like Slasher Party, No Escape, and Clickbait have all revolved around the internet’s answer to reality TV stars. The only problem is, they tend to be so vapid and downright annoying that I don’t care if they live or die. Spree at least was smart enough to flip the equation and have its central character kill for online fame. Can writer/director Jennifer Harrington (Housekeeping) make us care about the famous for being famous?

Shook opens with a nasty, if improbable, murder and an incredibly vapid cover of Girls Just Want to Have Fun before getting into its main story.  Mia (Daisye Tutor, The Thinning: New World Order) is a successful fashion influencer. Claiming to be “shook” by the opening murder, she skips a livestream with her boyfriend Santi (Octavius J. Johnson, Sleepless) and other influencer friends including Jade (Stephanie Simbari, Lady-Like) and Lani (Nicola Posener, Age of the Living Dead, Angels Fallen).

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Instead, she’s babysitting her sister Nicole’s (Emily Goss, The House on Pine Street, The Protector) dog, Chico. Which is a good thing as there is a canine serial killer on the loose. Of course, her friends don’t see it that way, especially as she was the main draw for the live stream. However, when an unknown caller starts demanding she complete a variety of challenges in return for her friend’s lives, she may regret her decision.

Shook starts out dealing with the complicated relationship between the two sisters. Mia left Nicole to take care of their dying mother while she chased internet fame, she wasn’t even there for her death. The disease she died of is hereditary, and Nicole has inherited it. Hence, the need for a dog sitter while she goes to San Francisco to see a specialist.

This made me hopeful that Shook might have a bit more depth to it than the films I mentioned. Unfortunately, it just manages to make Mia look as vapid and shitty as her friends. They’re quick to tell her she can afford to buy her sister a new dog if something happens to Chico and to just come to the party. Even Santi makes jokes when Chico inevitably goes missing.

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From here, Shook goes into Scream and When a Stranger Calls territory as the voice at the other end of the phone stalks and taunts her, at least once from inside the house. And each call ups the stakes, from the life of the dog to choosing which of her friends live or die. Or so we think, because around the forty-five-minute mark, the film throws a twist that casts doubt on everything that’s gone on before it. And it’s not a particularly believable twist, either. Then it throws another curve.

The problem is, apart from Chico, nobody in Shook is really worth caring about. Mia’s friends prove to be so shitty, I felt the killer would be doing the world a favour by removing them from the gene pool. Mia herself isn’t one to inspire a lot of sympathy. And when the actual killer, whose identity isn’t that hard to guess, and their motives are revealed, it actually makes her look worse. Not as bad as the killer, but still far from sympathetic.

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Maybe it’s just too hard to make Instagram and YouTube influencers seem appealing to anyone who isn’t already a part of that culture. Or maybe somebody needs to make a film centred around characters a bit more substantial and likeable than fashionistas and bro culture pranksters. Because despite a couple of good performances and some nice camerawork, Shook, like the others before it, failed to work for me.

Shook will debut exclusively on Shudder February 18th in the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. You can check Shudder’s Facebook page for more information.

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