Let’s be honest: anyone would do anything to become internet famous. We see it everywhere nowadays; pranks, injuries, and public displays of idiocy are all the rage in the current social-media-driven world. Whether this is bad or good is up to the eye of the beholder, but no one can deny the lengths people would go for fame. This is exactly the portrait directing duo Sophia Cacciola and Michael J. Epstein are trying to paint with their new film Clickbait.
Riding the fine line between satire and horror, Clickbait is not only examining the influence social media has on the current generation, but the dangers that come with said influence. It’s satire at its best, while also trying to dig deeper into some current social norms that maybe shouldn’t be norms at all– and it has a hell of a lot of fun doing it.
Clickbait follows twenty something year olds Bailey (Colby Stewart) and Emma (Brandi Aguilar), two totally opposite personalities whose friendship couldn’t be any more dysfunctional: Bailey is obsessed with popularity and always striving for the biggest online “hits,” while Emma is mostly concerned with her college career and looking after the self-destructive Bailey. They soon discover, though, that Bailey is being stalked by a stranger who is putting footage of her online for the world to see– much to the joy of Bailey, who sees this as her online breakthrough. Emma, on the other hand, is in full panic mode, and since no one seems to care or offer help to the two girls– especially the dim-witted detective Frank Dobson (a hilarious and energetic Seth Chatfield)– Emma decides to take things into her own hands to catch the creep invading their lives.
At the core of Clickbait is the not-so-subtle, surface level satirical look into social media and how far one will go to get recognized– in this case being kidnapped. It’s all in-your-face, from the random, gross out humor of the appropriately named “Toot Strudels” to the fact that the stalker is wearing a Donald Trump mask. It’s all juvenile and simple, something that could be taken as a critique, but trust me, it works for the best here– especially when the beating heart of the film revolves around toxic pop-tarts.
Sometimes we need a bloody kick in the face when looking at the human condition and its dependency on being known online. To drive the knife through the heart of the point even more, Cacciola and Epstein match the satire with some good ole’ horror gore, only seen in spurts, but effective whenever showcased. I sometimes wished Clickbait would push itself towards the horror spectrum a bit more, but hey, I’ll take what I can get!
All of this is tied tightly by a string of energetic and infectious performances by the duo of Stewart and Aguilar, who are not only constantly charming, but whose chemistry is undeniable. I don’t think this film would work nearly as well without them. Throw in a scene stealing Seth Chatfield as the gut busting and hilarious Detective Dobson, and you’ve got yourself a film with a leading cast of characters.
I don’t expect Clickbait to make the world disconnect from their phones, but even if it makes you question what people would do to themselves to get famous, then hey, we can call this a job well done. Shut your brains off for an hour and twenty minutes, then turn them back on and start some good ole’ critical thinking!
dir. Sophia Cacciola & Michael J. Epstein
Screens Wednesday, 3/20, 9:45 PM @ Brattle Theatre
Massachusetts premiere– directors in person!
Part of the 21st annual Boston Underground Film Festival— keep watching this space for the Hassle’s continuing BUFF coverage!