DIRECTED BY: Eugene Kotlyarenko
STARRING: Joe Keery, Sasheer Zamata, David Arquette, Kyle Mooney, Mohammad Tiregar, Mischa Barton, Frankie Grande, Josh Ovalle, Lala Kent, Sunny Kim and John DeLuca
Kurt Kunkle, a rideshare driver thirsty for followers, has figured out a deadly plan to go viral. As his disturbing livestream is absurdly embraced by the social media hellscape, a comedienne emerges as the only hope to stop this rampage.
Spree is a dark comedy-thriller written by Gene McHugh and Eugene Kotlyarenko, with the latter also directing the film. The film focuses on Kurt Kunkle, a young man who has become obsessed on becoming a social media star and going viral, making video content that rarely hits double-digits in terms of views. Disheartened by creating what he views as good content but not getting the viewership he craves, Kurt has an idea on how to go viral and rigs his car with cameras and begins a livestream titled ‘The Lesson’, as he works as a driver for a rideshare app called Spree, and picks up passengers and finds various ways to kill them.
I know in the lead-up to this films release, it was marketed as American Psycho for the social media age, particularly influencers, and it’s easy to see why this social media satire feature draws such comparisons. The film rests entirely on the shoulders of Joe Keery playing the role of lonely Kurt Kunkle. Though Kurt posts videos constantly on the daily, he hasn’t been able to gain the audience that he believes that he deserves. So one day he decides to execute what he thinks is a brilliant idea to gain more followers…to livestream his murder spree of his passengers working as a driver for an Uber-like company known as Spree. While the film gets ‘inventive’ with some of the ways Kurt kills his unexpected passengers, particularly in the way a sunroof is used to poisoning of water bottles, but it’s the desperation he shows to his passengers than lingers longer than the death/slight gore as Kurt’s social awkwardness has him blasting his own techno beats and trying persistently to plug his social media accounts to everyone he comes into contact with. There’s a sub-plot of him Kurt tries to get himself to be an equal to his friend Bobby BaseCamp, a kid he used to babysit that’s succeeded in becoming a famous influencer and it’s the belittling from Bobby that it’ll never happen for Kurt that haunts him throughout. The film has an interesting commentary on social media as a whole, how people can manipulate it to achieve a certain status (in one scene where Bobby BaseCamp highlights that one video he done pretending to help homeless people for the views), as well as the audience’s need to shock entertainment, yet not accepting the violence on display, believing it to be staged. Joe Keery has a ball playing this psychotic role of Kurt Kunkle and gives it his all with playing it with a devilish charm. Sasheer Zamata also gives a really good performance as Jessie Adams, a comedian whose achieved popularity with her presence online who comes on Kurt’s radar and it’s not that he wants to kill her, initially, it’s that he desperately wants her to tag him in order to get the likes. The film is well directed by Eugene Kotlyarenko, and particularly well edited by Benjamin Moses Smith and how they capitalise the space within the car and how the separate livestreams align onscreen.
While the film has a commentary about the state of social media, I’m not too sure some viewers will see it that way and will see it as another film that follows a lonely, white-male become a serial killer. After the first twenty to twenty-five minutes, the film does start to get repetitive as we never go above the concept of Kurt’s masterplan or even really know anything about Kurt or his psyche and the final act does feel over-bloated in its execution of Jessie Adams and Kurt Kunkle’s arcs coming to a head. There’s another arc involving a foreign DJ that Kurt interacts with that only seems to exist to provide a shock factor to get Kurt out of a situation that’ll stop his livestream yet and it’s never brought up again.
Spree is a film with a intriguing premise and look at the dark side of social media that quickly looses steam once we get to the final act. Outside of the script it’s well edited, shot and has an absolutely game performance from Joe Keery.