Shook, written and directed by Jennifer Harrington, tells the story of Mia (Daisye Tutor), a social media influencer who has to leave a party that was going to be live-streamed in order to help her “friends” get more followers in order to take care of her sister’s dog while a dog-killer is on the loose. However, during her stay, she starts getting haunted by a faceless stalker who commands her to do various tasks while threatening to slaughter the dog and her friends. The movie has an interesting premise, unpredictable twists and turns, and a bone-chilling conclusion. But, despite having amazing performances and some creative cinematography, it’s ultimately let down by the shoddy editing.
I am a horror fan. It’s my comfort food. But there is this notion that is being peddled by mainstream entertainment portals that the genre is dying and that it had its glory days in the ’70s and the ’80s. And I do get where it’s coming from. However, I vehemently disagree because it’s thriving in the form of movies and shows like Red Dot, Prisoners of the Ghostland, Censor, Sweet Home, Andhaghaaram, Paranormal, Come Play, Kindred, The Wolf of Snow Hollow, The Haunting of Bly Manor, Run, Lovecraft Country, Ju-on: Origins, #Saraitda, and more. Creators are finding new ways to widen the horizons of the genre and since horror has been about exploring the unexplored, what better way to do so than to pick on the most cryptic aspect of the 21st century i.e. the internet.
Shook is written and directed by Jennifer Harrington and is based on the story by Alesia Glidewell. The cinematography is by Richard Wong, casting by Lesley Wolff, production design by Shannon Kemp, editing by Housekeeping Films along with assistant editor Patrick Welch, set decoration by Rebecca Czaika, sound mixing by Dennis Grzesik, costume design by Kali Root, makeup by Hugo Villasenor, Erin Blinn, and Analyn Cruz, stunt coordination by TJ White and Cristina Dennis, and VFX by Tunnel Post. It features Daisye Tutor, Emily Goss, Nicola Posener, Grant Rosenmeyer, Octavius J. Johnson, Stephanie Simbari, and more. The story revolves around Mia (Tutor) who is a social media influencer with the most number of followers amongst his “friends”. So, it’s up to her to give them a boost by holding a live-stream. But she has to ditch that in order to take care of her sister Nicole’s dog and that’s when things go to shit.
Too much social media is bad. I think that most of us know about that by now. But the fact that it has become such a generalised notion that I think that many fail to take it very seriously. That’s why it needs to be shown from a very subjective point of view while highlighting things that people do on a daily basis. We have a bad habit of checking our mobile every second even though we aren’t particularly looking at anything. That’s what Mia does. Our craving for validation has reached such dizzying levels that we begin to equate likes and retweets with real love because it’s easier to maintain than a real relationship. Mia has that problem as well. And when these two are combined, our priorities are warped so much that we forget to be selfless. Well, no points for guessing that that’s what happens with Mia.
Now, I am pretty sure that if this was a drama, there would’ve been long discussions and arguments about the aforementioned problems that we have. But since this is horror, Shook takes a scary and gruesome path. Yes, bodies fall, and bones are broken in order to drive the message home that maybe, just maybe, while you are ostracising your loved ones for the sake of some followers and fake friends, they are also getting ostracised from things that they need to stay rooted in the reality they live in. Additionally, it shows that people who can be bought in order to give us validation can also be bought to do the opposite, thereby urging us to opt for unconditional love rather than investing in those with conditions. I know, I am being very vague and that’s because I don’t want to spoil anything for you. I promise that by the end of the movie, this will make sense.
Let’s talk about some of the good things that Shook does visually. In the first scene, we see a bunch of influencers apparently attending a gala or a party. There are dozens of photographers and interviewers trying to ask them about their rise to fame. All of it is shown via medium shots so that we don’t get an idea of where they are or where they are going. Then the scene cuts to a wide shot and we see that it’s not some red carpet situation, but only a small, faux event being conducted in a back-alley to make it look like the brand that’s hosting these influencers is hot stuff. It’s both funny and tragic and it says so much about social media culture without uttering a word. The cinematography overall is great and features some of the best use of projections. I really liked that. Gave it a very ’90s feel.
But then the editing f*cks things up big time. I just want to point out a funny thing. I didn’t find out who is the editor of the movie and who has composed the music. I tried searching for them in the opening credits (Twice) but didn’t see the name. Then I went through the end credits and found these two: Housekeeping Films and assistant editor Patrick Welch. So, if they have edited it, my criticism is directed towards them. If not, well, let me know who it is. I still don’t know who is the composer. Moving on. The shot-to-shot editing is really over-the-top sometimes and reduces the tension in the scenes. And since there’s no tension, parts of it start to feel dragged. Add to that the music, some of which have been lifted from those YouTube meme videos, and a lot of the movie’s potential is squandered. If you’re able to look past that and make it to the third act, you’ll find a lot of things to appreciate, which I can’t spoil.
Daisye Tutor has range. And I couldn’t have gauged that from the first 20-or-so-minutes of the movie. Initially, her character isn’t challenged a lot. So, she plays it off casually. I was aware that the movie’s going to be a one-person show and that’s exactly why I was afraid that if she was going to act like that for the rest of the movie, it won’t work. But as soon as shit hits the fan, she dials up her performance to eleven and starts to unpack the layers of insincerity that Mia’s wrapped in. She really sells the fact her character has been brainwashed to the extent that she cannot decide who is more important, her fake friend or her own sister. I just wish she was given some more physically demanding tasks to fill up the narrative gaps that might make you question why she’s a little too inactive given the gravity of the situation.
I can’t really speak about the supporting cast’s performance without spoiling literally everything in the movie. I will just keep it at this that the person who makes it to the end with Mia shook (Yes, I said it) me to my core and made me question so many things about how I use social media and the things that I am neglecting. The whole conversation on the floor, which reminded me of a scene from You Were Never Really Here, and it’s gut-wrenching. And that’s all I can say. Seriously, I wish I could have said more but it’ll legit ruin a lot of the twists and turns in the movie. If the impact of the performance wasn’t so dependent on the plot, I honestly would have dived into it more. However, I am afraid I have to limit it to this. I reiterate that the supporting actors are great and deserve a lot of applause.