“Shook” is a half-hearted attempt at a moral parable wrapped in a standard-issue “She’s all alone” and “She has to complete all these tasks/puzzles/challenges” horror film.
It’s a gimmicky thriller hung on the “influencer” hook. Seems like every other film has that marketing fad tied into its story some how, and not just Hollywood.
A beauty vlogger (Genelle Seldon) is the curtain-raiser here, a vapid living doll who has an accident with her not-toilet-trained puppy as she’s being interviewed on yet another red carpet.
The most ingenious gag in director and co-writer Jennifer Harrington’s film might be having the camera pull back to show just how “fake” “red carpet” events are these days. This isn’t a movie premiere, an “exclusive” party or fundraiser. No, it’s just a backdrop, lighting and fake celebrities interviewed by a fake interviewer on a 20 foot swatch of carpeting, all of it ginned up for online consumption.
But cleaning herself up in the bathroom — down to her Spanx — is where this makeup influencer runs afoul of “The Southland dog killer.” Only the dog gets away this time, and influencer Genelle is the one who gets it.
That invites a whole lot of online tributes from her fellow red carpet mavens, with #MakeupByMia (Daisye Tutor of “Come as You Are” and “Funny Story”) winning the virtue signaling sweepstakes by skipping a live-streaming event to dog-sit for her sick sister Nicole.
Big sister (Emily Goss) cared for their mother while busy-busy Mia was “in school” and sharing her pretty girl life online for cash and Internet fame. Now, little sis is giving something back to her sickly sister.
But she can’t focus on her self-promoted good deed and the dog in peace because she’s constantly logged-on, badgered by her partying influencer pals Lani (Nicola Possner) and Jade (Stephanie Simbari), with Jade very much a threat to hook up with Mia’s “super-hot” beau, Santi (Octavius J. Johnson) if she does join in their promotional party.
That’s when the friend request and the text messages start to come in from the stalker next door. That’s when Nicole asks to see a photo of her beloved pug before bedtime, and Mia can’t instantly provide it. Because Chico has disappeared.
Mia finds herself juggling calls, getting a more and more creepy vibe from this neighbor and growing more and more concerned about the missing dog.
It isn’t long before the calls turn menacing, everybody in Mia’s world seems to be in peril, and no, she cannot call the cops, even if 911 picked up by the 25th ring.
“Why are you DOING this?” never gets an answer, but all will become clear as this villainy grows murderous and the inevitable “explanations” flood into the third act.
You know how these things are constructed — texted threats, “voice changer” apps, harder and grimmer “challenges” facing our “good girl” branded heroine.
Tutor isn’t bad, but the way the plot set-up is scripted and acted by her co-stars gives away too many secrets too early. Long review short — ok, LESS long — “Shook” is a gimmicky ticking clock horror thriller, some of whose gimmicks work, with that ticking clock never quite driving the action as fast as one would like.
A little urgency here and there, a heroine’s believable panic and terror over the grisly dilemmas she finds herself facing, lashed to some seriously lame payoffs to the assorted mysteries keep “Shook” on shaky, not scary ground.
Rating: unrated, graphic violence
Cast: Daisye Tutor, Emily Goss, Nicola Possner, Stephanie Simbari, Octavius J. Johnson and Genelle Seldon
Credits: Directed by Jennifer Harrington, scripted by Alesia Glidewell and Jennifer Harrington. An RLJE film released on Shudder.
Running time: 1:29