The multitude of horrors that social media is at the forefront of is no secret.
Not only are platforms frequently used to give insight into the terrors of the world as they unfold, but it also gives way to dark and disturbing facets of their own from trolling to revenge porn, dangerous message boards, illegal marketplaces, scams, and so much more. As social media has increased in popularity, so too have social media influencers and personalities who have risen – and sometimes fall – through the use of these sites. There has been a fair share of shocking scandals surrounding this new wave of celebs, and this film takes that concept to new, terrifying heights.
Making its international premiere at FrightFest Glasgow and based on the award-winning short horror film of the same name, director Travis Bible has turned the supernatural social media slasher #Chadgetstheaxe into a full feature film.
In it, four social media influencers join forces to livestream their experience at Devil's Manor, where legend has it a satanic cult still haunts the secluded property. #Chadgetstheaxe is told entirely through digital mediums, be it through livestreams, reaction videos from fans and other influencers, instant messages, or stories and grid posts on the film's Instagram-esque social media site, Live Life.
There has been an influx of social media-driven found footage films of late, so I did not expect anything stand-out from #Chadgetstheaxe, instead thinking I was sitting down for another run-of-the-mill offering. However, I was left surprised and somewhat spooked by #Chadgetstheaxe as it progressed thanks to its love-to-hate characters that developed deeper than their digital personas as the film went on, meticulous narrative development, and satisfying scares that left me begging for more yet watching through my fingers.
Chad (Spencer Harrison-Levin) is the social media celeb we all love to hate, and as the livestream chat spends more than an hour wishing all manner of horrifying things happen to him, it's hard not to start to believe he really does deserve the axe. And therein lies part of the horror of #Chadgetstheaxe – the way in which the climate of social media can be so frightening. In the world of this film, these four influencers are real people, albeit really vacuous people, living out a truly horrible situation. As they try to survive their time in Devil's Manor, people sit behind their screens and watch, cheering for the villain, wishing them dead, sometimes hitting on them, and at others trying to promote their own channels and podcasts off the back of their misery – and you almost find yourself jeering along with them.
Harrison-Levin is superb in the role of Chad, who starts the film wildly problematic and ends it with a sort of redemption arc as he abandons his escape plan from Devil's Manor in favour of attempting to save his friends Steve (Michael Bonini), Jennifer (Taneisha Figueroa), and Spencer (Cameron Vitosh). We get glimpses into the faces behind the screens in snippets of them on camera before they press record, helping to flesh out what otherwise could have been hollow, boring characters. This helps the jump scares and gory moments on screen have more impact as you begin to really invest yourself in these characters and their journey – it's easy to believe they could well be enigmatic internet personalities. However, the film also weaves many genuinely funny moments into its narrative, whether that be cringe-inducing moments between vlogging couple Jennifer and Spencer, pranks and jabs directed at Steve, or the downright unbelievable things Chad believes are okay to say.
Whatever you think of social media found footage films – whether you love or are starting to become tired of them – you're sure to have plenty of fun with #Chadgetstheaxe, an atmospheric horror with plenty of comedy and a deeper, darker take on society and our use of the internet.