In 2021, almost no one is effectively capitalizing on the opportunity of a horror streaming service quite like Shudder. In addition to their many acquisitions they’ve been creating a plethora of original content, and if you’re in the mood for a social media-inspired horror then Shook might be right up your alley. Mia (Daisye Tutor), an aspiring social media star that comes across more fake than real, finds herself caught up in a live-streamed event planned to terrorize her – but is the horror manufactured or genuine? You’ll have to watch the whole film to find out, but I’ll say I genuinely had a fun time with this new release and would recommend it as a popcorn-at-home, lights-out, quarantine viewing if you’ve enjoyed films like Unfriended: Dark Web (2018), Followed (2020), or The Gallows (2015).
The film kicks off with Mia agreeing to watch her slightly-estranged sister’s dog Chico. Nicole, played by Emily Goss (The House on Pine Street), is apparently headed out to San Francisco for a treatment designed to target her progressing ALS-type illness, of which their mother had previously died. Clearly these sisters have a lot of unspoken trauma between them that begins to unravel over the course of Mia’s first night dog-sitting. Unrelated to the sister dynamic, there has been a spree of dog killings targeting the SoCal community where Nicole lives. When Chico goes missing, Mia immediately fears the worse – and her fears seem to be realized as her social media friends, boyfriend, and an aloof neighbor begin to taunt her via live streams, texts, and FaceTime calls. I’ll leave the details of what happens next out but trust that things are not what they seem and the killer may not only be targeting dogs.
Mia’s friends fall into the background of the plot, despite spending a majority of the time onscreen, while the relationship between Mia and her sister is definitely the best character work the film sees. Mia herself, a flawed and apologetic young woman, could have been developed a bit further but Daisye Tutor does the heavy lifting required to bring the character purpose beyond a guilty conscience and a lust for social media followers. Story-wise, Shook‘s biggest twist is meant to be saved for the end, but the pacing could have been adjusted to give the revelation more time instead of hovering too long on unnecessary and irrelevant details at the start of the film. Sadly, most of the violence takes place off-screen (including dog kills if you were also worried about that) which I feel actually detracted from the film’s potential effectiveness in the genre.
Shook borrows several elements from the aforementioned found footage films, mashing up social media trends & vernacular to immerse both Mia and the audience in the world of social media life. The film shifts between found footage style shots and longer, more classical inspired takes that jolt the viewer back and forth as Mia attempts to unravel the mystery. Whenever texts/FaceTime calls/live streams pop-up, they are incorporated into the actual scene which really helps keep the viewer in the story, allowing for more continued ambiance and suspense to build. What I really appreciated was the darkness and claustrophobia of Mia’s surroundings, allowing for a sense of dread as to what could be lurking in the shadows. The score was also a surprise delight, marrying music and technology with an 80s synth sound that mirrored the way the film incorporated its use of social media.
Shook succeeds as a fun, weekday night distraction. The social media tropes have been done before but it does provide a unique experience that actually builds the technological aspects of the story into its shots. The film is nothing but stakes, so we can’t fault it on that front, but it doesn’t fully explore the possibilities that the plot could have set up. It falls a bit flat, however, but the acting and the tone service the story well enough that it is definitely a worthwhile watch if you’re interested in some topical social media-centric horror. I won’t say it left me “shook,” just slightly shaken.
Jennifer Harrington’s Shook hits Shudder on February 18. Let us know what you thought of the film over on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and in the official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.