IFC Midnight

IFC Midnight

Lucy has settled in for the night in her Bangkok apartment with a bottle of wine and a desire to chat up hot babes online, but she’s interrupted by a knock at the door before she even gets to virtual first base. A new neighbor, a creepy Brit named Russell (Russell Geoffrey Banks), invites her to his upstairs soiree, but she declines the offer and returns to the half-naked girl on her computer screen. She eventually notices that the girl, whose head is cropped out of the frame, is visibly several feet away from the keyboard even as new messages are being sent. (Viewers with eyeballs have been wondering about this for several minutes already.)

Things get creepy, and Lucy ends up losing her head too.

Some time later another young American woman moves into the same apartment. Like Lucy, Allie (Tammin Sursock) enjoys ogling the ladies online, and soon she finds herself waist deep in a tale of murder, expats, cliches and laughably bad onscreen grammar.

Cam2Cam is a thriller, of sorts, that wants to point out the dangers of online interactions while simultaneously pushing our faces in the exploitative “sleaze” of a foreign land, and it seems to believe that we know both of those things to be true in our hearts of American hearts. Anonymous murderers, dark-skinned deviants… these are the things of nightmares. Well, they would be if we were still living in the late ’90s anyway.

“Tell me where my sister’s fucking head is!”

Allie befriends three other young adults living in the same rundown apartment building, but while Michael’s (Ben Wiggins) interest in her is rebuffed and Jade (Kotchanan Grubbmo) is summarily ignored, she finds comfort with the sexy and free-spirited Marit (Sarah Bonrepaux). The flirtations don’t last long though as soon Marit falls victim to the same killer who’s claimed a half dozen foreign heads already. Allie has to decide fast… stay in this human cesspool and track down the killer, or return home to Detroit.

She chooses the less disturbing and dangerous option.

Bangkok. She chooses to stay in Bangkok.

Director Joel Soisson‘s film opens strong(ish) with a fairly solid game of cat and mouse between Lucy and her killer, but Allie’s arrival signals a downhill slide (albeit an attractive one) from which the film never recovers. It’s not Sursock’s fault though as the blame rests almost fully with the script by Marie Gautier and Davy Sihali. The film is divided into two thematic halves, in a sense, between the technical dangers and the real world ones facing unwary travelers to both realms. Unfortunately for the film neither of those halves are presented with anything resembling an awareness of how they actually work.

The tech side of things fails almost immediately as the film tries and fails to capture the chat speak so popular with the “kids” of today. Obviously people abbreviate and use accepted shorthand when texting, but this is ridiculous. “Sry sum dork naybr” and “no wz awsum, seriosly” are some of the more legible examples, but the idiocy extends even to spelling “hey” as “heyy.” The subsequent hacking on display is equally unconvincing, and while I’m no connoisseur of sexy-time chat-rooms I find it hard to believe mimes make a habit of hanging out in them.

And it doesn’t take a tech genius to realize that the best way to nip a psychotic online chat in the bud is to close the damn app and shut down the stupid laptop.

The real world is even less realistic as a bloodied character wielding a battle axe roams the crowded city’s streets with no interference from police or pedestrians. The murder plot that unfolds feels like one constructed by people who’ve never actually stepped outside, gone online or had a conversation. And not for nothing, but can we kill the cliche of a victim finally fighting back only to take a swing at the approaching footsteps and accidentally kill a neighbor/friend/innocent person?

The film also wants desperately to dip its severed toe in the exploitation pool, but it handles it in odd ways. The “ugly Americans” are painted as both obnoxious tourists and necessary consumers of filth, the young women are all “sexy” lesbians and the film even resorts to a close-up of a penis intended as a shocker. Said wang has zero bearing on the plot mind you. It tries for a second or two to make some kind of statement on the sexual abuses committed online, but when one young non-Thai character complains about the sickos expecting them to do perverted things in the online chatroom just because they’re in Bangkok it smacks of screenwriters who don’t understand that the internet has no geography.

Cam2Cam would probably be cutting edge if it came out in the late ’90s, but in a world where far smarter and superior films like The Den exist it quickly becomes little more than a sloppy attempt at T&A&T(echnology).

The Upside: Opening act has moments of creepiness; some attractive Bangkok photography; Sarah Bonrepaux shows promise; unexpected move around the 36 minute mark

The Downside: Script is ridiculous and clearly not thought out beyond the setup; chat speak is lame; third act surprises are ludicrous and self-defeating

On the Side: Sarah Bonrepaux was the lead in Xavier Gens’ ABCs of Death entry, “X is for XXL.”

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