App is a Dutch horror film that is the first feature length motion picture to employ second screen technology – meaning additional content will play on a viewer’s phone. For more on that and how it plays with the film itself come back tomorrow where I will review that portion independently.
The merging of technology and horror in plot is not a new trope. However, it is always noteworthy. As technology evolves cinema will invariably comment and employ. Text bubbles appearing onscreen, as opposed to shooting the phone’s screen, is now commonplace in the language of film. So it was only a matter of time before horror went from voicemails and cellphones themselves to apps.
This is a story that clearly will take a supernatural slant as it concerns Anna (Hannah Hoekstra) who finds an app on her phone and doesn’t know where it came from and she can’t get rid of it. From that moment the stakes only increase as the A.I. continues to only get stronger and more omniscient.
One of the best aspects of the film is how it sets things up and then delivers pay-offs in unexpected ways. Characters both major and minor are introduced and the film spends a good portion of act doing that, but as it does its also foreshadowing and setting up incidents later on. In fact, there were a few set-ups that became apparent to me one my second viewing.
One of the things the film does struggle with a bit is a balancing act many films have to figure out, which is what to explain and what not to explain and when to disseminate said information. A lot of the answers are all provided at once in a monologuing-style stream such that its possible some information can be lost in hindsight.
Not that the film quite gets off the rails, but as things are speeding towards a conclusion it’s a bit of a slow-down in pace to get the answers. The film overall does not engage in much spoonfeeding such that one small ever-so-slightly incongruous section such as this one stands out even more. However, in dealing with it alone it does leave some things for you to ferret out and some stay mysteries.
One very pleasant aspect of the film is that the catalyst for the inciting incident is not a dumb/obvious mistake by the protagonist, but rather a an innocent and not very apparent one. There are based on incidents in the narrative requisite scenes that must be played out: namely those between Anna and Sophie (Isis Cabolet) when they’re fighting. These scenes are not belabored, well-handled and resolved with minimal dialogue.
As opposed to one of my favorite recent film discoveries Hellphone; App, while still having comedic moments, is playing it a bit more serious. To do that with a fairly outlandish plot requires a lot of finesse in the directing and scripting, but also from the cast. The standout being Hoekstra who effortlessly conveys and intelligent, tough, fun-loving character whose turn as horror heroine rivals that of Sharni Vinson in You’re Next, albeit in a far different subgenre.
App is a film that works quite well, whether you decide to engage in the wizardry of the second screen experience or not. Its an 80-minute tale that feels brisk and not truncated, that’s is great fun and even though all the kills and thrills aren’t jaw-dropping surprises they are well-executed and staged.