What do you see when you scroll through the news feeds of the social media outlets you participate in daily? What do you see when you look at the posts, pictures, and comments? Is it the same obnoxious joy and hubris shared with your followers? Is it the truth? Is it the same as what you see when you look in a mirror? We’re all guilty of exaggerating our personal happiness (and personality) for the sake of praise and adoration to some degree, but at what cost? Director Sophia Takal and writer Adam Gaines have collaborated to explore those repercussions from each side of the screen in modern celebratory fashion with their addition to Blumhouse’s Into The Dark anthology series in New Year, New You.
Starring Suki Waterhouse (The Bad Batch, Assassination Nation), Carly Chaikin (Mr. Robot), Kirby Howell-Baptiste (Killing Eve), Isabella Acres (Wreck It Ralph), Michelle Haro (The Void), and Bianca Lopez (The Rental), New Year, New You sees “A group of millennial friends gather for a reunion on New Year’s Eve to reconnect and reminisce, but as they rehash old memories and revisit an old party game of Never Have I Ever, gripes and secrets they’ve been harboring manifest in nefarious ways”.
“…contemporary issues, topical influences, and hardcore horror all behind one closed door.”
Resentment, jealousy, and violence are just a few of the omniscient party guests to arrive well before the clock strikes twelve as the tables turn between plain jane Lex and social media superstar Danielle. Once the new year commences for this group of friends, relationships are shattered, power shifts, and self care empowerment is seen as nothing more than an artificially filtered post.
Independent filmmaker, Sophia Takal (Always Shine), truly seizes the moment to flex not only her technical directing skills, but also her comprehension of mixing contemporary issues, topical influences, and hardcore horror all behind one closed door. Gaines (Negative) ups the ante by crafting near-tangible characters to lead a believable, but sinister scenario. As if they were drafting a post to round up a significant amount ‘Likes’, the efforts put into this story are bound to make it go viral.
New Year, New You is a strong social commentary on social media and a relatable story about relationships. All of its moving parts, from the damaging effects of bullying to the sensational presence of self care, are relevant to all viewers. The narrative is simple yet unique to the genre by putting a chic spin on envy and revenge. Takal expertly captures the isolation of private loathing while Gaines takes the average story of complex-female-dynamics up a notch by crossing the edgy line of brutality.
We are so often given strong female roles and New Year, New You is full of them. That said, it is refreshing to also observe a female protagonist and antagonist who exhibit some of our worst and most shameful behaviors that we wish to truly banish come midnight each year. Lex is extremely flawed and harnesses this realistically jealous hatred against Danielle and her facade. It’s a true, applicable feeling she can’t overcome, one we can’t blame her for having. Everyone experiences that deep, wretched gut-twist of envy combined with overwhelming irritation when we see someone less than perfect acting perfect. We’re exposed to that reaction every time we open up a social media app, turn on the television, or even open a magazine.
“…the goading manipulation and passive aggressive bite of transgressions […] spirals into a tense, bloody showdown.”
One of the overall strong points New Year, New You has, aside from its cultural relevance, is the way the violence and terror organically progresses. The pacing is natural and effortless as the girls slowly turn on one another, memories manifest, and hidden resentment reflects off each of their shallow surfaces. When the goading manipulation and passive aggressive bite of transgressions new and old finally mount with each tick towards midnight, New Year, New You rears its pretty head and spirals into a tense, bloody showdown.
Loyalty between close friends harshly dilutes while validation from idle social media followers reigns supreme. As the end reaches an ambiguous resolution, we’re enticed to question the motives behind the messiahs of inspiration spatting self care mantras and narcissistic worship, yet wonder who the real villain is when her reflection truly manifests within the mirror.
Filters and Tags
Any professional blogger, vlogger, and public personality knows the devil is in the details when trying to to attract and maintain followers. Without popular hashtag lingo and effective filters, what’s the point of any post? New Year, New You is full of satisfying extras from artful, inspired camera angles to familiar dialogue and behaviors to the inclusion of authentic social media dependency.
Gaines and Takal’s collaboration on New Year, New You peaks within the emphasis placed on the role of social media and the effects of online portrayal on individuals and followers alike. Danielle’s spiels, videos, products, and mannerisms practically mimic those we scroll through on our phones constantly. The hashtags, self promotion, video redos and edits, and even her physical appearance are all striking examples of our technology-based world brought to life. I loved how her irritating character never turned into a saturated, obnoxious cartoon version of a blogger, but instead remained grounded in the weird self love addicted world we live in today.
New Year, New You peaks within the emphasis placed on the role of social media and the effects of online portrayal…”
The small, intimate group of lifelong friends in New Year, New You are familiar characters, almost as if you’d grown up with them yourself. I can’t speak for everyone, but I felt like I could identify with all of the characters and had been each of them at one point or another amid my reunions with friends. Luckily for me, the most “nefarious” activity my group of girlfriends and I got into on New Year’s Eve was purchasing our first Cosmopolitan magazine from the local supermarket. The dialogue and banter is disarming as the relationships run so fluidly then crack and shatter rapidly. Everything from the biting wit of manipulation to the fake, exaggerated high-pitched greetings between these female friends is as authentic as they come.
As everything unfolds, it’s hard to ignore the inspiration behind Takal’s eye. Long, secluded shots, hyper-focused character pans, and slow detached zooms solidly set the volatile mood. Channeling her inner Kubrick, Takal has the guts to draw similar shots and angles to those composed by the film legend. What sets her apart is her personal touch that makes each part of New Year, New You her own. No matter how taut the situations become, Takal manages to add an oddly calming flair to each scene. The memory transitions are a hair aloof and the passive aggressive tones float lightly throughout, wrapping a slightly dreamy film around this real, raw plot.
While I do think this episode may have benefitted from a little more exposition when it comes to the girls’ history of bullying. We know there was an accident, we know what happens, we know who is responsible, but I would have liked to see that scene play out mores than it does in lucid flashbacks. It’s New Year, New You’s only weak point, a small blemish on its polished face, but remains minor enough to ignore. The true focus is prevalent, reflecting on the deeper meanings of friendship, admiration, jealousy, and individual identity.
I truly enjoyed the plot, the characters, and the meaning beneath its reflective surface. This latest installment of the Into The Dark series provokes thoughts that hit close to home in a modernized manner. New Year, New You appropriately inspires individuality combined with true elements of horror, reminding us to look in the mirror before we point the finger while we look to our devices.
“The true focus is prevalent, reflecting on the deeper meanings of friendship, admiration, jealousy, and individual identity.”
New Year, New You is currently streaming exclusively on Hulu. Be sure to catch it while still riding on your New Year’s high as the series is about to head in one direction when Into The Dark returns on February 1st with Down.