The Internet and social media pretty much runs the lives of teenagers today. They spend most of their time on it and it is where most of their communication happens. There are some good things about it and some rather scary/dangerous aspects. Inherently, the Internet is neither good nor bad; it is what you make it. It is all about how you use it. Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s (Catfish, Paranormal Activity 4) film, based on the novel of the same name,shows a darker side that devolves into a mob mentality.
After losing her brother at a young age, high school senior Vee Delmonico (Emma Roberts – from television series Scream Queens) lives life very safely. She doesn’t take risks like her classmates. She does hang out with wild child Sydney (Emily Meade – Young Adult, That Awkward Moment), but is the good girl. That makes friend Tommy (Miles Heizer – from television series Parenthood) and her mother (Juliette Lewis – Natural Born Killers, Jem and the Holograms) very happy. She does everything to make everyone happy including not going to the school she really wants to because it is across the country. You know she is just itching to bust out.
Things change quickly for Vee and those around her once she is shamed into playing the game Nerve. Nerve is an online game that is a kind of truth or dare thing without the truth part. Players wait for dares that Watchers come up with. If you accept you have to film yourself completing the dare in the allotted time. The tougher the dare the more money you win and also the more people you have watching what you do. The more watchers the higher you move up in the ranking with the top 10 competing for the title.
Everyone, including herself, is shocked when Vee starts playing. Her first one is kissing a stranger in a restaurant for 5 seconds. She ends up selecting Ian (Dave Franco – Now You See Me, Superbad) because he is reading a book she likes. This seemingly random choice pairs the two together in the game and the Watchers keep asking them to do riskier and riskier things. The money she keeps winning and the idea she can use it to help her mom or maybe pay for the school she really wants to go to plus that she is doing something no one thought she was capable of keeps her in the game.
Soon the two find themselves trapped in a game that continues to escalate. Vee wants to stop, but Ian reveals something that forces them both to continue. Tommy, Sydney and a hacker called Kween (Samira Wiley – from the television series Orange is the New Black) are trying to help them from the outside.
Technology can empower people as well as put them in danger. It is a powerful tool that can tempt people into behaviour they would not otherwise engage in. The concept behind the film is a cool one, but somewhere along the way it degrades into a bad 80s comedy mixed with low budget summer blockbuster. Joost and Schulman’s film suffers from an identity complex. The more they try to position themselves the more of a mess it becomes. It is a fun mess though.
Though the film is filled with some poor dialogue and cliché-ridden characters what saves the film (as much as they can) is the decent acting and the good chemistry between Emma Roberts and David Franco. Plus the message to teenagers about popularity and doing anything for it along with the dangers of mob mentality are important ones.
Then there is the ending which you can see coming from a country mile away. Plus will leave you feeling dirty. The kind of dirty after you have been manipulated in a big way. The directors want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to show how evil the game is while having the good guys take part in it.