Antisocial (2013) is the feature length debut from Canadian director Cody Calahan, co-written with Chad Archibald. Distributed by Anchor Bay and Monster Pictures among others, Antisocial offers an interesting concept using the modern day fixation with social networking as a metaphor for world destruction.
A group of university friends are getting ready to celebrate New Year’s Eve with a wild house party planned. Protagonist Sam (Michelle Mylett) harbours a broken heart after being dumped by her boyfriend via video chat on social networking site ‘The Social Redroom’. Signifying a sense of danger in its name with‘Redroom’, this is the film’s version of a Facebook-type site where the vapid youths constantly post pictures, videos and generally obsess about each other’s lives.
At this point, the film delivers an innovative set up introducing the characters through their online personas, indicating how they want to be perceived by their peers and followers which could lead to some potential depth and characterisation later on. Sadly, this isn’t the case as once the action begins; Antisocial leaves its audience with a sense of emptiness as what it actually delivers has been done many times before with a better execution. Think Dawn of the Dead (1978, 2004), 28 Days Later (2002) and Ringu (1998) to give a sense of what sort of tone Calahan is going for with this.
With that said, being inspired by other horror movies isn’t the problem here, it’s the fact that Antisocial loses anything ground-breaking that it could have achieved with its statement on the modern day obsession with technology and living our lives through social networking. There are some creative ideas within the film such as the breakdown of face to face communication and blurring the lines between reality and the internet as well as questioning who true friends really are and if we can truly trust what the media feeds us. Bringing in the zombie epidemic aspect just transforms the film into a homage of our favourite films of that sub-genre with very little substance involved.
Another issue with Antisocial is its characterisation and performances. There isn’t a great deal to say about our “heroes”. Mark (Cody Thompson) is the standard best friend/love interest, Jed (Adam Christie) appears as the more sensible one of the group having already deleted his Redroom profile, Steve (Romaine Waite) is the jock archetype and Kaitlin (Ana Alic) is the typical blonde air-head preoccupied with her own image. Sam, the traditionally brunette heroine is incredibly dull, constantly expressionless and is unable to carry the film as the lead role. Her character also throws in a major life altering event mid-way through the film which is never mentioned again.
However, it possibly impacts her potential determination for survival; but even that feels like a contradiction. There is an attempt at the whole strong, fearless final girl trope in place but because she is so uninteresting it doesn’t really sit well. Antisocial doesn’t allow the audience to really engage with these characters therefore rooting for them to live becomes so difficult by the film’s conclusion. Unless it was going for the whole self-obsessed youths who can’t see beyond their social networking profiles deserve to be infected with a life-threatening virus but that’s doubtful.
The positive side to Antisocial is that it does have a high production value as well as some well-constructed effects. It’s definitely not poor in terms of its cinematography, editing or set design. It has an original score by Steph Copeland that provides a sense of atmosphere and is one of its strongest points. It does introduce a body horror aspect that is quite interesting but it comes into the film too late as the ending comes across as one contrived pay-off.
For a first time feature Calahan has not done a bad job however the weakness lies in the writing and characterisations. His style is there as is his appreciation for the zombie sub-genre. It is incredibly difficult to create a strong zombie film with a significant social message and get it right.
Antisocial takes itself way too seriously and if this was the intention perhaps it could have worked with a more consistent script and better actors that created characters we could care about so that the events that take place decipher a more poignant meaning. However to conclude, Calahan definitely has potential and it will be interesting to see what type of subjects he tackles next.