American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
If you have ever found yourself idly speculating what might occur if Sofia Coppola—one of the most intriguing filmmakers of our time—were suddenly robbed of all her prodigious artistic gifts and then hired to make a dumb knockoff of the already-execrable "Unfriended," then "#Horror" is the movie for you. As for everyone else—and I am guessing that covers practically every sane and sentient moviegoer out there—it will prove to be nothing more than a nightmarishly awful blend of mad slasher nonsense, social satire and After School Special that offers nothing of value in the way of humor, scares or insight. It may have the lofty goal of illustrating how pre-adolescent cruelty in the cyber-era can jump from the screen to real life in horrible ways, but the end result is so bad that when the infamous Slender Man is referenced briefly at one point, I felt sorry to have his comparatively good name tarnished by its inclusion.
Set almost entirely within the confines of a lavish luxury home seemingly built almost entirely of glass in a tony Connecticut suburb, "#Horror" is centered around something that should certainly send chills down the spines of most normal people—a slumber party involving six media-obsessed 12-year-old girls, most of whom appear to be vying for the role of the group's resident Mean Girl: There is Sofia (Bridget McGarry), who lives in the house with her rich parents (Balthazar Getty and Chloë Sevigny) and who is an all-around monster; Francesca (Mina Sundwall), who the others suspect is an incipient lesbian; Georgie (Emma Adler), who sublimates all of her feelings through food, and Ava (Blue Lindberg), whose single distinguishing trait currently eludes me; Sam (Sadie Seelert), who is always being teased by the others because her family is not rich. And lastly, there's Cat (Haley Murphy), who is still reeling from psychological problems brought on by her mother's death and has gotten trouble previously for bullying others.
After the usual amount of giggling, trying on clothes and endless posting selfies online, Sofia's mother goes out to a 12-step meeting and leaves them alone for a couple of hours. No sooner has she left than the girls start turning on each other with the kind of cruelty that they usually save for the Internet and before long, Cat is kicked out. She responds with mean online postings and eventually Sofia locks up all their phones for the night to bring the cyber-bullying to an end. At this point, however, it becomes apparent someone is out there in the woods—who we already saw murder Sofia's father and his mistress—hell-bent on killing the little brats and posting their gory demises online. Is it Cat? Is it Cat's father (Timothy Hutton), a decidedly unstable type who receives a call from his distressed daughter, and arrives to scream at the girls while threatening them with a knife? Is it the spirit of Ray Jameson, the famous artist and contemporary of Warhol who used to live in the house decades earlier until he went nuts during a party and killed six people before allegedly committing suicide? Is it Jameson himself—after all, they never found the body?
Not that anyone watching "#Horror" is likely to care in the slightest about who is doing the killing and who will survive. The film was written and directed by Tara Subkoff, a noted fashion designer and actress making her debut behind the camera—yes, Sofia Coppola started her directorial career in much the same way, but I assure you that this is where comparisons between the two end. The screenplay is a godawful mess in which none of the characters generate anything in the way of audience interest—not even the ones meant to be slightly more sympathetic—and then Subkoff forces us to watch as they endlessly snipe at each other. The storyline is painfully thin and filled with plot elements (like the psycho artist story) that are nothing more than obvious red herrings. Subkoff tries to compensate for the trite writing with fancy visuals (including irritating animations that pop up whenever someone posts online) that are more annoying than anything else. As for the acting, none of the young girls make much of an impression, while the more recognizable faces all seem as if they are doing favors for a friend, as they invest the littlest of their talents as possible.
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