Shook starts off with a seemingly silly premise. A social media “make up legend” is comically/brutally murdered by a suspected dog killer. Mia (Daisye Taylor), who in the past has always turned down her sister’s request to watch over dog, decides to skip out on party and do just that. She has to stay on brand and pay respects to her fallen comrade, after all.
The tone of the story changes surprisingly quickly. What seems to be an over the top comedy horror movie turns into a dark tale of regret. Mia is soon put through a series of tests with the lives of her friends at stake. The first fifteen minutes of Shook are so different from the rest of the film, they might as well have been two separate movies. This is jarring and does not quite work as well as writer-director Jennifer Harrington intended. It is one thing to subvert expectations; changing the mood before establishing anything is counterproductive.
This is a shame since the film is so well put together. Social media is becoming more prevalent in film – especially in horror. Shook covers many of the same themes but it’s presentation is different. As is common in these types of movies, much of the story is told through laptop and smartphone screens. In a nice twist, the house is almost used as a projection screen. Mia is surrounded by the texts, pictures, and videos in some shots that seem to overwhelm the characters. In another creative touch, voices will whisper some of the texts out loud. This makes everything that much more terrifying.
Shook starts to lose steam in the closing moments. Even ignoring the problematic portrayal of mental illness, the inventiveness seen during the rest of the film is lost. In place, it becomes a basic horror movie. Everything down to the ending becomes too formulaic. This is not bad per se, but it is just another unnecessary change.
Shook premieres on Shudder February 18
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