Sundance 2020 – Spree

Disclosure: I am the world’s biggest sucker for webcam/phone/dashcam genre films. I watched both Unfriended films in theaters and loved them both, I would happily take 5 more of them. Searching was one of my favorite films of 2018, a revelation of a work. The streaming subgenre is one that commits to its gimmick, and whose filmmakers are consistently innovative in how they tell their stories. So as soon as it became clear that Spree was going to be filmed all by dashcam and cellphone, I was helpless. 

Spree follows Kurt Kunkle (Joe Keery), a rideshare driver who in a desperate effort to go viral, decides to stream his violent plan for fame. 

I don’t care for Stranger Things, but Joe Keery is the right man for this film. His charm is weaponized into unhinged chaos and evil. The comparisons to American Psycho are apt. There isn’t much nuance in his performance, but none is required. He must simply charm, which he has always been able to do, and then spit it back in our faces. 

I need to watch Eugene Kotlyarenko’s other films, because this guy’s got it. He gets a lot out of a set of dashcams and cellphones – most of this film is witnessed through 6 dashcams on Kurt’s car and the cellphones of characters – somehow keeping the pace fresh and the angles from getting stale. By embracing the limitations he sets, he enhances the experience of the film and is able to play with perspective, and the complicity of an audience. Kotlyarenko walks a fine balance between creating biting and unforgiving satire while also crafting a film that is genuinely thrilling and massively entertaining. I gave an audible “OH SHIT” at one moment in shock. This film is unafraid to go there, making you uncomfortable while making you laugh simultaneously. 

The subtext of the film is self-evident, how we are all insatiably hungry for “content” and “clout” no matter the consequences. Mass murder has become a commodity to be digested. The whole film is about as subtle as a fucking hurricane, but I can’t hold that against it. It is bombastic, but it means everything it says. The finale is as great a recreation of The King of Comedy as there is, and it is earned. Whatever distributor picks this up has a strong chance of nabbing a hit. Spree is a nasty thrill made with innovation and ambition.

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