A social media influencer finds herself the target of a deranged killer. She will have to follow the killer’s twisted games in order to save her friends and herself. Yet nothing is as it appears to be.
Shook is the sophomore feature film for writer and director Jennifer Harrington (Housekeeping), with the story by Alesia Glidewell (Look at Me). This is one of a string of recent horror thrillers we have seen that focus on the negative side of social media. The film begins by showing a delightful giallo-style kill of a social media star, creating a cold open that will definitely stick with viewers. From there, the film takes on more of a slow burn with plenty of twists and turns. While the plot is a bit uneven at times, it still manages to get the message across. That message is not to trust the façade people display on their social media. Throughout the film the audience follows Mia. The first time we see her she looks like a glamorous social media influencer with a perfect life. As the film progresses, it becomes clear none of this is true. The killer forces Mia to reveal the darkest secrets of her real life or else her friends will suffer the consequences.
For the most part, Shook does a great job of breaking down the mask social media builds. Again, this is necessarily an idea we haven’t seen in horror before, but this film does a nice job of exposing the secrets of every character in a suspenseful way. The one issue I have is with the villain. While I can’t say too much, I will say that is seems to perpetuate the unfortunate trope of mental illness equating to violence that is all too common in horror. The filmmakers definitely tried to do something a little different with this villain, but it ends up falling back on old stereotypes.
From start to finish, Daisye Tutor (Come As You Are, Guest House) completely carries this film with her performance as Mia. At first glance, Mia is the perfect woman. She is sweet, caring, giving, beautiful, and popular on social media. As truth after truth is revealed, Tutor shows the audience who Mia really is while still making her endearing. This is vital because the audience needs to care about whether or not Mia will survive this encounter. The rest of the cast does a great job of appearing glamorous, while also showing their less savory side. These performances include Emily Goss (The House on Pine Street), Nicola Posener (House of Anubis), Octavius J. Johnson (Sleepless), and Stephanie Simbari (Here and Now).
One of the most compelling aspects of Shook is the visuals. Because the plot is so deeply rooted in social media, there is a lot that takes place either on the cell phone or a computer. Instead of making the audience simply stare at these little screens, the filmmakers took a different approach. Throughout most of the film, while we watch Mia on social media or texting, the screen she is looking at is projected onto the walls. It adds some visual interest to the otherwise plain set while also making each scene more dynamic so we aren’t just watching a character look at a screen. Shook also has surprisingly well done practical effects. While they are used sparingly, the instances of violence definitely stand out with those effects. Trigger warning: this film has multiple images of mutilated dog corpses.
Shook is a suspenseful morality tale where nothing is as it seems. Harrington effectively gets her message across about people on social media never being who they appear to be. Many of the thrills seem to be giallo-inspired, having many surprising layers to the mystery and keeping the audience at the edge of their seats. Unfortunately, also like classic giallo films, there are animal mutilation and mental health tropes that will likely alienate some viewers. Beyond that, the film has some strong performances and utilizes eye-catching imagery to make itself stand out from other films with similar messages.
OVERALL RATING: 6/10