Whether you’re an influencer or have a quieter presence on social media, the need to outperform each other can lead to mounting jealousy for a seemingly perfect life captured in a misleading single shot. Director Jennifer Harrington strives to portray the vapidness, fear, and anxieties that follow leading a life on the internet, simultaneously while trying to unpack complicated family dynamics.
Mia (Daisye Tutor) is a social media influencer and she is consumed by her image online. She has neglected her life in recent years causing an apparent rift between Mia and her sister, Nicole (Emily Goss). After their mother became ill, Mia took a step back leaving Nicole to shoulder the responsibilities of a sick family member. When Nicole leaves town, she asks Mia to dog-sit due to a dog serial killer on the loose. She reluctantly agrees, mainly for the purpose of holding appearances on her social media. Soon Mia is dragged into a horrifying game she must play to ensure her loved ones stay alive. Shook uses horror as an opportunity to discuss relatable topics in many people’s live but ultimately the film feels conflictual. As a result of competing themes, neither received the chance to be fully fleshed out causing an unsatisfying ending.
Shook has an interesting enough concept and storyline that makes it an enjoyable watch. Quite simply it is a fun movie that evokes many classic horror tropes: phone calls from a stranger, an unknown person slinking around the house, and Saw inspired games. Watching Mia weave through the decision making process to save her friends made for some high anxiety scenes that were equally as entertaining as they are horrible. Tutor has a captivating presence and she is able to level the balance between the comedic and serious tones. Unfortunately, scenes occupied by side characters often felt overdramatized by antics, taking away large portions of tension building. A majority of the film is spent on a laptop or cellphone screen, using projector-like images on the wall or floor to imitate people in the room with Mia. This just served to add to the list of unnecessary additions to the film. As time went on, it began to feel like a mechanism to make scenes feel full. There are countless horror films such as Hush (2016) and Unfriended (2014) that utilize limited people or a screen based cast yet never feel empty. The looming threat of someone watching is enough to build eeriness.
I wish the quippy dialogue was maintained more consistently or a wholly serious approach was taken to address sticky family dynamics. Shook was able to keep the audience guessing as Mia tried to deconstruct the motive of her mysterious stalker but falters because the script takes itself too seriously. In the midst of unpacking the consequences of a carefree social media presence and the impacts of a scorned family, the film lost any momentum it gained causing it to fizzle out before a clear message could be presented.