The Facility

Not so much trial by fire, as trial by drug trial by fire, seven volunteers look to line their pockets to the tune of a £2,000 (about $2,500 US) by taking some experimental meds, agreeing to live in some off-the-beaten trek facility with lacks all mod-cons, including internet and anything that could be used to summon help ASAP.

That’s a pretty great premise, and the results prove efficacious, bonus, it’ll end up in Lancet!

The staff at The Facility don’t prove to be much help at all, as after all, it’s a double-blind study wherein neither staff nor subject knows what drug is being administered, which adds a quick-and-easy layer of intrigue to the proceedings, even if the researchers’ biases aren’t particularly well hidden.

And the people potentially putting their lives on the line for the equivalent of a nice studio flat in a semi-decent area of London? There’s a Charlie Manson doppelganger whose saddle-face tells a tale of one pharma trial too many, but at least hasn’t suffered the fate of the Simpsons’ Mr McGreg, who has a “leg for an arm and an arm for a leg” with his dangerous occupation choice. He’s a seen-it-all vet of these types of things and scares the other assembled with a possibly apocryphal yarn about staff in other studies taking advantage of comatose participants.There’s a journalist who’s taken a placebo, who arouses suspicions of her colleagues, a mindless workout fiend who despite instructions to the contrary, can’t keep himself from sit ups/push-ups and others not given much of a backstory.

Still the tension builds nicely with mordant humour, nice lighting, and inspired practical effects on the cheap.

There’s no hissing zombies or frothing-at-the-mouth, a welcome body horror change of pace.

This reviewer saw this one following the exemplary French documentary, Unit of Difficult Patients: What Future for the Criminally Insane? but wouldn’t recommend that as a date-night double-bill.

*** (out of 5)

Friend Request

The bottom of the compost pile when it comes to horror subgenres, is undoubtedly social media horrors.

And Friend Request is no different, a rotten stinker predicated on a bullied spectral spookie who hijacks Facebook pages with gross content and torments her assailants.

But I Know What You Did This Summer this is not as the connection between the revenge seeker and the victims is barely there.

Laura is an uber-popular coed at a made-up California College populated by central casting types who chronicle their lavish lifestyles in Malibu, or some such place. Laura’s got 800 friends, 800 more than goth cliche loner, Marina, who sits in the back of psych class and pulls her hair out (maybe frustrated by the lack of quality slasher films tackling social media). To her credit, Laura reaches out to the outcast, only to be cyber-stalked and abused for her troubles.

Marina begins sending disturbing content to Laura’s friends, and posting snuff material as Laura (including a self-immolation vid), getting her expelled and making her the college pariah. Laura enlists the help of a hacker friend, who finds that the backend code is some witchcraft mumbo jumbo.

Meanwhile, turns out there’s little record of Marina even attending the school (maybe Felicity Huffman was lending a helping hand).

While the horror genre reflects cultural anxieties and has done so with aplomb in the past, whether it’s creeping conformity/communism in Invasion of the Body Snatchers or rampant consumerism of Dawn of the Dead,  however to date, no legit offering has adequately dealt with how social media is warping our minds, disrupting our concentration and making us depressed.

Whether it’s #horror, iMurders, Unfriended, or the best among them, Cam (which is a compliment so back-handed it should be used to slap a bitch) none can get out of their own way to tackle broader social implications of Pavlovian manipulation.

** (out of 5)

[Check out our Friend Request podcast!]