Welcome to Knockout Horror and to another Horror Movie Review. Today we are taking a look at another Social Media Influencer Horror – Shudder original Shook. Yep, I am not sure how this became a theme but it is. We have actually reviewed quite a few movies focusing on Social Media Influencers. Some of them, like Sissy and Deadstream, were fantastic. Others, like Baby Ruby and Superhost, weren’t so good. The worst of the bunch, however, has finally arrived.
Shook is partly an ode to early 2000’s style slasher horror. And partly a rip off of movies like Truth or Dare. Our protagonist is made to play games by a mysterious caller to keep her friends alive. Directed and co-written by Jennifer Harrington. This is a movie that could have done with a little more time in the oven. There are hints at something with potential. But it never realises its potential and falls fairly flat in the process. Let’s take a look.
Shook follows the story of social media make up influencer Mia. A dog murderer is on the loose and has now turned their attention to humans. Worrying about the safety of her pet dog while she is out of town. Nicole employs the help of her sister Mia to look after the little pooch. Mia, who is typically self absorbed and rather shallow, surprisingly agrees. Mia, evidently, sees this as an opportunity to score some extra cred online. It’s only when Mia starts receiving bizarre phone calls threatening her. That she begins to regret agreeing to dog sit.
So this movie is fairly standard stuff. A woman walks around a dark house. A creepy person phones her up and tells her to answer questions. If she gets the questions wrong, the creepy person will kill her friends. Shook plays out like this for a little while before somewhat flipping the script. The result is, basically, more of the same. A twist for the sake of a twist if you will. It’s extremely cookie cutter stuff, predictable in its need to play to type.
If you have watched slasher movies before. You know what to expect with Shook. The environment is overly dark and the lights are either defective or a bit shit. An initially confident protagonist soon gives in to fear. Only to find her strength again. Repeat ad nauseum. Movies like this are always welcome. Slashers are tons of fun. The problem here is with the execution. Shook tries to do too much with too little. The result is a movie that feels confused and extremely messy. As the movie goes on and the plot expands. The feeling of messiness grows.
The first 20 minutes, or so, of the movie feel very familiar. Clearly influenced by the opening scenes of modern classic horror Scream. Mia ambles about the house trying to scope out the location of the caller. Looking onto her back porch before checking out the front. An overwhelming sense of Deja-vu is likely to wash over you. So many horror movies have played out like this. Where Shook attempts to differentiate itself. Is in its commitment to portraying the social media obsession of its protagonist.
Mia is constantly glued to her phone and to IM services. She visits people’s social media pages. Texts back and forth with her friends and watches videos. Many of these events take place on her various devices. Others are projected awkwardly onto walls for the viewer to see. This is a strange technique that never felt very comfortable in my opinion. The light from the projector illuminated Mia’s hair and reflects off of surfaces. It all looks a bit strange and low effort. It is only one of a few of Shook’s strange little quirks.
Mia’s conversations are sometimes represented by a mouth speaking into her ear. At one point it licks her provoking both laughter and a bit of repulsion. Characters are placed in the same room as Mia despite being in a different location. Obviously designed to depict events happening to said characters. The results look a bit silly and made me think of something you would see in community theatre. At another point, Mia looks through a peephole only to see a text message appear in the void. These little stylised touches go on throughout the movie.
While much of this is fairly unique. It never really feels as though it works all that well. Some of it is likely the result of budget constraints. Some of it simply feels like misguided stylising. When combined with some extremely unlikeable characters and poor acting. It can make Shook a bit of a difficult watch. Our main character here is not particularly nice. Whether her story in Shook is supposed to be one of redemption or not. I am not sure. Regardless, she is difficult to relate to. I would go as far as to say she is someone many would distance themselves from in real life.
Her friends are vapid stereotypes designed to reflect personalities you see online. Each of them obsessed with one superficial thing or another. Her relationship with her late mother hints at a child that was uncaring. Her sister’s issues with her are longstanding and complex. This isn’t really a cast to root for. Most people will, likely, find themselves more invested in the villain. This, obviously, has a big impact on the horror element of Shook. If these characters are difficult to care about. Why would I be scared for them?
I am sure there is some greater message here. One that focuses on people’s carefully cultivated online personalities. The desperate need to portray oneself as being perfect, happy, and unaffected by life’s difficulties. Even if it comes at the cost of your actual interpersonal relationships. A cheap slasher movie doesn’t feel like the right place to do this, though. We simply need a relatable, likeable protagonist, a decent killer and some flawed victims. Again, Shook tries to do too much with too little.
As mentioned above, this is a movie that has been done to death. Taking a well worn “killer on the phone” formula. Shook doesn’t really manage to do anything new with the formula. It also struggles to conjure up much in the way of suspense. A few twists here and there send the story into something of a chaotic spin. Despite the consistent pulling of the rug from under your feet. The movie retains its overwhelming level of predictability. Even right up until the end. Anyone with any level of horror experience will be able to call the events in this movie like a bingo card. It does tremendous damage to the tension and atmosphere. Something which the movie never recovers from.
Acting is a complete mixed bag. Daisye Tutor, as Mia, does a nice job of crying on command. I applaud her efforts, her voice was hoarse by the mid point of the movie. She’s going to need some Vaseline under her nose as well. It was running for the entire film. The poor scripting here doesn’t do her any favours, though. By the final few scenes, Tutor seems to have lost all motivation.
The screenplay is a tremendous problem. Something no amount of acting talent can overcome. It’s present throughout the movie. But A conversation between Mia and the killer stands out. It comes across horribly and is terribly written. Its like two friends chilling on the grass chatting shit on a summer’s day. Any gravity left in the movie completely evaporated in that moment. Emily Goss, as Mia’s sister Nicole, is decent enough. Mia’s friends are horrible. With the exception of Nicola Posener who is great as the bitchy Lani, It’s all just very low rent.
When you take all of the issues and throw in a few more. It’s all too much to make Shook a movie worth recommending. Plot holes abound throughout. Continuity issues stand out. The plot feels incredibly illogical and silly. The ending is, somehow, both farcical and unlikely while being terribly predictable. It’s all a bit frustrating as this movie did have potential. While doing nothing new, movies like this are always worth a watch. Everyone enjoys slasher flicks. They are easy to watch. Just don’t try to do too much with the formula and strike out.
This is exactly what Shook does. It tries to do too much and the result is a bit of a convoluted mess. I give credit for the interesting style choices. Unfortunately, I disliked most of them but innovation is important. I enjoyed some of the camera work. Some of it was very creative. Harrington’s direction is genuinely decent. Outside of early movie pacing issues. She does a good job. The derivative plot, lacklustre performances, and convoluted twist are too much to overcome. They lead Shook to feel as empty, plastic and shallow as the social media influencers it derides.
Oh, and one more thing that I would like to moan about. For fuck’s sake. Can we stop depicting animal violence in movies? I have to select that damn tag with every film that I review. I wish writers would get some new ideas.
Shook is an overly familiar slasher horror with a social media influencer theme. While feeling incredibly familiar. Shook tries to mix things up with plot twists. The result is a movie that feels horribly messy and convoluted. Interesting style choices lend the picture a somewhat unique feeling. Whether these choices work, or not, is down to the viewer. I, personally, found them to be a bit awkward and cheap looking.
Acting is, generally, poor. There is a complete lack of suspense and the characters are difficult to invest in. The plot holes come in thick and fast and the movie is entirely predictable. If you have a high tolerance for below average slashers. You might want to check Shook out. Everyone else should probably give it a miss.