Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2019
Images from the Internet
Directed by Maximilian von Vier
Proportions Productions / Princ Films / Wild Eye Releasing
92 minutes, 2018
“It hath often been said that it is not death, but dying, which is terrible.”
– Henry Fielding, in Amelia (1751)
When I teach people about computers at a beginner level, I talk about both the good and bad sides about the technology, such as with telecommuting. Sure, it’s great not to have to go out on a snowy, cold day, but it’s also isolating. For some that aspect alone has either its positives or negatives.
The relevance related to this film is because our protagonist, Liz (Klariza Clayton), who goes by the screen name Nightowl, is s self-shut in. She may be young, she may be cute, but she hasn’t set foot outside her apartment flat in months (her job deals with computers, making that possible). While satisfied with that, she is also depressed and desires to end it all, but doesn’t have the courage to do so. The messy apartment is bathed in dark, blue lighting and little else. She also keeps in touch with the world through her computer, cell phones and the television. She truly is a child of media, which inundates her life and makes it possible.
To make her existence manageable, she keeps tabs on what is going around in the neighborhood through her window and a few pairs of binoculars. Her neighbors all think she’s bonkers, but it is through this odd way she meets Josh (Adam Newington), who rocks a Zac Efron handsomeness.
Through her depression, Nightowl is a member of an online chat group that promotes suicide, but it seems anyone on there rarely does anything about it except whining about how miserable they are. Seems kind of adolescent to me, but there is definitely a punk vibe going on, with people having screen names like Deaddboy. It is through this group that Liz gets onto the dark web and onto the site of the titular Suicide Club. Once you join, you are asked to either give a name to have someone killed, or just wait around and they’ll kill you for not nominating someone. So, it’s more of a murder club than a suicide one. And, natch, whomever the masked murderers kill, gets recorded and the video is sent to the other members. In a very Tarantino way, the killers have “names” like Mr. Black, Mr. Brown, etc.
Even without the killers and this dark website, Liz’s neighbors are a bit on the creepy side, which we get to see in a Hitchcockian Rear Window (1954) kind of way. But instead of a broken leg, it’s a wounded soul that keeps Liz inbound. She’s constantly biting her nails and fidgeting about the place, with a pained look in her eyes, the source of which we learn later (won’t give it away).
Most of the images we get to see and hear are the darkness of Liz’s flat, and what she sees through her binoculars. There is some “technology” shown to the viewer in that messages she receives may be on the computer screen or floating in the air for our enlightenment. This is a nice touch. I also like that we are told how long it is between scenes by a title card that may read “+18 hours” or “+24 hours.” This is really smart and gives more of a timeframe for events that are happening as they unfold.
Despite the claustrophobic settings, it never felt oppressive to this viewer, and in fact, it reminds me of an octopus with the apartment as its body and what Liz espies as it’s tentacles, reaching beyond the boundaries of the confined space.
The philosophy of the Suicide Club, i.e., their reasoning, may sound familiar to fans of a certain horror franchise, but this is not just “we’ll torture the characters in set pieces and figure out the story later” kind of thing, but rather it’s the plot that drives the killings, which are secondary. There’s not a whole bunch of blood and guts (nor nudity), but the story holds up the actions, and in this pump out yet another film in the chain and reel in the cash day-and-age, that’s refreshing.
The action and tension keeps going throughout, even in Liz’s bored and/or restless moments, and with modern technology as it is, it’s easy to identify with her emotions. We’ve all been so frustrated with working our computers that we probably want to throw the damn things out the window at least weekly, so when she hits a brick wall, though she’s a computer geek, even those of us who use the machines minimally can feel it palpably.
With a fetching cast, a good storyline and some powerful performances, this leads to a fun rollercoaster ride from beginning to end. Even the editing is worth nothing, as the time gets played with numerous times to set a mood and yet still zip things along. Worth a viewing.