SPREE. Psychopathic influencer

Przemysław Mudlaff

2 September 2023

Hello! How are you? This is Przemo from Filmfolly, and this is a review of Eugene Kotlyarenko’s movie Spree. It’s partly a thriller and partly a dark comedy about a guy who spent ten years pushing his internet content into oblivion. He thought that his life, sense of humor, and eloquence were interesting enough to guarantee him popularity. Hashtag #didntworkout. Kurt (Joe Kerry), our “influencer,” is thirsty for likes, shares, followers, and other audience reactions. After ten years of obscurity, he comes up with a project called “Lesson,” which finally brings him the desired audience and recognition. What is the “Lesson”? What price did the main character of Spree pay for his popularity? Is Kotlyarenko’s film worth putting down your smartphone and going to the cinema? Hashtag #review. Welcome!

The world of social media is sick, and nothing has convinced me of this more than the pandemic period. During that time, the whole world seemed to fit into popular apps, where more outgoing internet users desperately sought the attention of others by creating “interesting” content. I mention the coronavirus for a reason because Spree is a 2020 production. Although Kotlyarenko’s film doesn’t contain information about the pandemic or its characteristic artifacts (masks), remembering the past two years, it’s easy to conclude that watching Spree during that time would have had a completely different impact.

However, we have Spree from 2020, and from this perspective, I’m here to evaluate it. Before I point out the strengths and weaknesses of Kotlyarenko’s production, you need to learn what the previously mentioned “Lesson” is. It’s an extreme project in which Kurt, as a Spree driver (something like Uber but more integrated with social media), transports people in a car equipped with several cameras. Kurt takes care of developing his personal brand, so he always offers his passengers a small bottle of water to drink. However, it soon turns out that the liquid he enthusiastically hands out is poisoned. Anyone who drinks it chokes, coughs, and most likely dies. From an attention-seeking incel, Kurt transforms into a serial killer, all in the hope that someone will finally notice his online activities. However, the live murders carried out with poisoned water are considered fake, so his content still doesn’t get the response he craves. This forces him to resort to even more radical and drastic measures. Victims must bleed. The ride begins! YOLO.

As the “Lesson” progresses, there are more and more editing cuts, and the film races at breakneck speed. There is also more happening on the screen… screens. I forgot to mention that Spree was largely filmed as if it were another online livestream. Kotlyarenko plays with various types of messengers and apps throughout Spree. Although this technique seems impressive, I felt a sense of fatigue. It’s interesting that I don’t mind looking at a smartphone screen with pop-up notifications, comments, and information for several hours, but when the same image is transferred to the big screen, it can tire me out in just 60 minutes.

I think Kotlyarenko would have exhausted me even faster if it weren’t for Joe Kerry, who plays Kurt. The actor can transform from a foolish influencer into a psychopathic killer in an incredibly smooth and unexpected way. You can’t feel sympathy for Kurt, which makes his character even more intriguing. Played by Kerry, the character is not just a loner seeking online friends but a dangerous and depraved individual. It’s truly excellent acting, Mr. Steve from Stranger Things. He is funny, daring, magnetic, and at times, even a little psychopathic.

Based on the above information, one can conclude (or at least I hope so) that Spree is primarily a satire on the desire for internet fame at any cost. And that’s what the film truly is. Although Kotlyarenko creates many opportunities to ask questions and mock other contemporary issues (see: Kurt’s passengers), he barely accentuates them. The director seems determined to present the difficult story of a guy willing to kill for visitors to his channel. However, it’s such a clear and transparent satire that I began to wonder what else Spree wanted to convey to me. Maybe it was about not taking water from Uber drivers? Or treating them better? No, I think it was all about Kurt after all. On one hand, it’s a pity, but on the other, Spree can be seen as a glimpse into the abyss. An abyss in which not only the one doing something wrong is to blame but also the people who watch it. Contrary to what Kurt repeatedly says in Spree, we exist even if we don’t document our lives and don’t waste them watching foolish or, worse, dangerous videos. For this rollercoaster ride, Kotlyarenko gets 3 out of 5 stars. Hashtag #Cheers.

Przemysław Mudlaff

Przemysław Mudlaff

He appreciates the truth and sincerity of the intentions of its creators in cinema. He loves to be emotionally kicked and abused by the film, but also happy and amused. A hunter of film curiosities, references and connections. A fan of the works of PTA, von Trier, Kieślowski, Lantimos and Villeneuve. What he likes the most is talking about the cinema over a beer, and the beer has to be cold and thick, you know what.

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