Beware the killer hashtags!

Not only is there a killer hashtag on the loose, but there’s a copycat killer hashtag! So which one does murder better?

#horror (2015)

#horror cover

Anyone looking for a slasher about a social media killer, don’t look to #horror. Look below….

While this one starts with a bloody throat cut kill in a car, the “slasher” part doesn’t come until about the last 20 minutes of the film. Not to mention, all the victims are 12-year-old girls! Some points right there. More points for a notable cast of familiar faces including Balthazar Getty, Natasha Lyonne, Taryn Manning, and Timothy Hutton and Chloe Sevigny, the only two who really get any chance to shine in their brief appearances.

#horror chloe
You cracked that egg, now nurture it, bitch!

Despite the allure of its title, #horror is actually more of a social commentary on social media and its effect on young girls. A group of spoiled tweens hangs out in the home of one of the girls when her snobby, self-absorbed mother leaves them home alone. A majority of the running time explores the pressures the girls feel from peers and parents, and all the bases are covered: fat shaming; hands-off parents; broken families; suicide; sex; popularity; alcohol; and most importantly, bullying. Even a bully is bully shamed and immediately reverts to playing the victim card, realizing that the bullying she is receiving is ruining her life. This shit’s deep.

#horror phones

The film seems to be about metaphors for death, loss of innocence, social status, and the challenges of being a young girl blossoming into womanhood. There are beautiful shots of the landscape covered in snow – snow that looks so pure and white on the surface, but is actually a cold killer of the life that lies beneath it. One young girl is disturbed by visions of someone in a mask as blood flows into the pool in which all the other young girls are swimming. Interpret that one as you want, but this movie about young girls is written and directed by a woman, so I’m guessing it’s more than a murder metaphor (think menstruation, hymen breaking, being torn from the safety of the womb by birth, etc.). There’s a montage in which all the girls, who spend most of the movie miserable as they face the truth about how others see them, are dancing, finally happy because they are glammed up in furs and masks.

#horror dance copy

And when one girl’s father busts in to bully the girls viciously for bullying the daughter he himself bullies but who runs to him as soon as she needs protection, there’s an eerie sight behind the girls: a blowup sex doll bleeding from its sexual spots, with its eyes at first closed but then suddenly opening as the man’s attack intensifies. Told ya. This shit’s deep.

So where does social media come in? As the girls badmouth each other and repeatedly take and post selfies, graphics of some sort of popularity rating game app constantly register scores across the screen. They splash across so fast you rarely have time to absorb what you’re seeing, which pretty much defeats the purpose. But one thing is for sure…the goal of the game is to murder your opponent using hashtags, which morph into daggers when you reach your goal. While there’s one telling scene demonstrating human disconnect in a modern age, in which the girls are all sitting in a stark room in separate corners focusing totally on their phones, the movie is surprisingly more about the girls verbally attacking each other face-to-face, which sort of negates the whole point of a movie about cyberbullying.

#horror handprints

However, the whole time the girls are going about their business, they are unaware that they are being watched and judged through the lens of a phone’s camera. Is it killer POV? There’s also a story told about a killer/artist that used to live in the house and murdered all his victims there. Does that have some bearing on anything? Where exactly is the horror in the hashtag? As I said before, it’s crammed into the end of the film. If you weren’t up for a social commentary, by the time you reach this part of what you were hoping was going to be an actual horror film, it will probably be too late to save this experience for you. But there are suddenly body reveals left and right, lots of blood, a masked killer, and girls being slaughtered. It’s so quick and chaotic that it’s hard to tell what the hell is going on.

While eventually borrowing elements of slashers, #horror isn’t an entry in the genre, it’s a movie making a statement about the horrors of what modern society and technology are doing to little girls. In other words, this drama with a horrific and tragic outcome had no choice but to allow its title to dictate the audience to which it would market itself.

#FollowFriday (2016)

 #followfriday cover small

While it’s cashing in on both the title of #horror and the social media excess of Unfriended, I found #FollowFriday to be way more exciting than both.

#followfriday kids

What can I say? This one is loaded with modern speak that would make Diablo Cody feel old and features a bunch of douchey social media addicts being massacred by a killer that warns them of their demise over the very form of communication they consider their god…yet they’re too self-absorbed to take the hint even when it’s about them. Delicious.

#followfriday main boy

It all begins with an awesome death by library bookshelves. From there, a college girl who saw the murder – and is herself on a death wish list because of an article she wrote about the school sports team – sets out to discover who the killer is.

#followfriday gay

There’s so much quirky shit going on here you can’t help but be entertained: a bitchy girl terrorized by pizza, a brutal death at a faux Halloween party on the dance floor, someone lit on fire at a candlelight vigil, a shirtless gay, ADHD social media post voice-overs, a raid of a sorority house, and a cat and mouse game with the killer at the end. To top it all off, there’s absolutely no satisfying reveal of the killer’s identity.

#horror impale

And why should there be? #FollowFriday knows a) we’re all too busy on social media to get the warning that the very social media friends we’re flirting with are actually a bunch of strangers we know nothing about, and b) as soon as we go online to trash this movie just because we can, we’ll become distracted by the next post we scroll past and forget we ever even watched it.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES.

I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.

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