Franck Khalfoun’s remake of Maniac in 2012 was by far one of the best horror films that came out that year with its brilliant blend of slick style and sick substance so I was fascinated and excited to see what his follow up would be like.
Written and directed by Khalfoun i-Lived is a much lower profile film than Maniac with a cast of relative unknowns made on a much smaller budget than his early works. This is no bad thing as the central ultra-relevant idea added to the innovative direction elevate it above other retellings of the very familiar tale of one man making a bargain with unknown forces to make his dreams come true.
Josh (Jeremiah Watkins) attempts to make a living reviewing phone apps in online videos however so far money and fame have eluded him and with no girlfriend, an irate landlady and a worried best friend it seems his life has officially hit rock bottom.
Thankfully one of the apps he reviews might be able to change that, a self-help app named i-Lived where the user enters goals and receives challenges to help them achieve their hearts desires. Dubious at first writing it off as nonsense Josh changes his mind when the app pushes him to approach a stunning girl at a bar named Greta (Sarah Power) telling him her favorite drink and securing him not only a snog but her number as well.
Deciding to give i-Lived a real chance he enters in several new dreams including getting Greta to be his girlfriend and growing his online following to make him a cyber star. The app offers seemingly innocuous advice from telling him girls like bad boys and prompting him to learn poetry and how to dance all of which works and soon Josh has the girl and a huge amount of hits on his site.
Happy at last doubts starts to enter Josh’s mind the more he researches i-Lived and the stranger and scarier it seems with other subscribers to the app whose testimonials had validated his belief disappearing and some entering his life in unexpected and violent ways.
Unsettled and feeling slightly unhinged Josh decides it’s time to delete i-Lived and move on now he has all he wished for however the app has other ideas and soon Josh finds himself descending into a spiral of madness and mayhem where reality and morality lose all meaning.
A modern day retelling of Faust the films failing is in its familiarity and although there are some updated twists and turns along the way and the script is very funny making it extremely watchable and entertaining it means any viewer who has seen any of the literally hundreds of versions of the same story will have a pretty good idea where i-Lived is going very early on.
Although the plot may be a little predictable Khalfoun’s visual flair is far from gone and i-Lived brilliantly blends visual media using camera phone’s and security footage intermixed with the main story as well as Josh’s J Tech app reviews displayed in full throughout often at hilarious and apt moments such as after a successful date with Greta which is followed straight away by a Kama Sutra sex app review.
Jeremiah Watkins is excellent as Josh taking the character on a real journey from nerdy socially inept loser to cold and passionless celebrity psychopath via a massive bout of unhinged paranoia along the way.
A darkly comic morality tale with enough good ideas to keep you guessing Khalfoun once again proves himself as a real talent with i-Lived and anyone watching will be sure to think twice before they press the download button next time they visit the app store.