Death of a Vlogger Movie Review
Written by Gareth Beverstock
Released by Enlightened Monster Productions
Written and directed by Graham Hughes
2019, 88 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Frightfest world premiere on 24th August 2019
Graham Hughes as Graham
Annabel Logan as Erin
Paddy Kondracki as Steve
Joma West as Alice
Stephen Beavis as Ian
Graham Hughes, the man behind A Practical Guide to a Spectacular Suicide has come offering a new feature film reflecting upon the horrors of the internet: Death of a Vlogger.
We are introduced to Graham, played by Hughes himself, a producer of YouTube video content who, after documenting a paranormal event gets drawn into a spiralling abyss of social media addiction, trolling and supernatural terror.
The film is constructed as a mockumentary chronicling the rise and fall of Graham, examining his previous work and his collapse into mental ruin through the use of interviews with friends and a few of the characters that were involved in the events. It also includes footage collected from Graham’s YouTube channel, camera and his Macbook from the last few years, as well as some on location footage from the documentary crew. In the case of Death of a Vlogger, since it seems that they are using similar equipment it feels like the documentary is part of the same manipulative tactics that the characters exhibit over the course of the story.
The story and theme — while engaging really well in terms of discussing the cruelty of the internet and the audience, social media addiction and the idea of a “post-truth” society — still give way to attempts at being clever; foreshadowing that gives a little too much away, clues and hints littered around the place with wild abandon that, once noticed, leave you questioning the intent. Similar to the myriad of story-telling techniques seen in Alternative Reality games, yet never really following through with them.
But perhaps though, this is all intentional, to give the audience all the information it needs to get to the truth, only for it to then force them to question it. Elements such as the below par effects that exploit the increasingly tired cliché of a creepy female motif in horror, even going so far as making her Japanese and using the Japanese term Hikikomori, meaning ‘shut-in’ or social recluse, just to give it some weight; news articles that just don’t look right, lacking in some of the finer detail and feeling like they put together in an evening over a bottle of Shiraz and several packets of crisps; characters that have no qualms about destroying someone else’s mental wellbeing just so long as it furthers their own agenda and success, leave you questioning continuously what’s going on. Is it fake, or real or just a psychotic break externalised by mental illness?
The best examples of these are Alice, the professional debunker who excuses herself from the backlash by saying, “Well I’ve had a bit in my time, it’s good that he should experience the same”. The blogger Gabrielle who sounds so pretentious and obnoxious, yet has so little relevance to the whole story you are left to wonder as to the point of her being there other than she wants some of the spotlight that Graham had managed to draw. Then there is Steve, the ‘professional’ YouTube ghost hunter, so caught up in views, likes and followers that the idea of truth gets pushed aside in favour of fame and fortune. You wonder if there is some deeper purpose to them. Are these a comment on the types of people that occupy these networks, the intellectual, the truth-seeker, and the capitalist? Then there are the nameless Vloggers, acting as a proxy for the audience as a whole, all too willing to believe what they see in an era where even the camera can lie.
While I cannot say Death of a Vlogger is amazing, it would still make an evening of worthwhile entertainment. At times laughable, it still offers enough substance to engage the audience in a discussion about the impacts of social media, mental illness and the boundaries between art and reality, and the objective and subjective.
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