Written and directed by Eugene Kotlyarenko, co-written by Gene McHugh, thirsty for a following, Kurt Kunkle (Joe Keery) is a rideshare driver who has figured out a deadly plan to go viral. Also starring: Sasheer Zamata, David Arquette, Kyle Mooney, Mischa Barton, Frankie Grande and Lala Kent.
The insane desire for social media popularity is possibly one of the most relevant things you could make a film about in today’s world that isn’t inherently political, with new generations of children growing up wanting to be YouTube stars and influencers. The first few minutes of the film set that up perfectly, watching Kurt making his videos with the greetings and sign offs, the pleas for subscribers, it’s akin to Kayla in Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade throwing up that peace sign and saying Gucci, it’s intensely awkward yet apt, except she didn’t want to kill people. It’s excessively sad that the premise of this film, murdering for internet popularity feels entirely possible, with the insane value that some people put in having a social following today.
Joe Keery brings the perfect energy to Kurt, it’s a classic blend of desperation and naivety, he’s manic yet he acts entirely as though what he’s doing is logical which gives him this weird balance of polite and murderous. He’s entirely cringeworthy and part of you will want to look away and yet you can’t help but to keep watching, which certainly speaks to how convincing Keery’s portrayal is. Casting Sasheer Zamata was a brilliant choice, she brings those typical fiery, smart, witty and strong qualities that she’s so good at and her involvement in the story works so well, which unfortunately can’t be further explained without spoilers. Bringing in Kyle Mooney alongside her was a nice touch to play an amalgamation of the types of men found working in comedy, poking fun at the weaknesses in their industry. Arquette and Barton make brief but solid appearances, the latter isn’t immediately recognisable but it’s nice to see her on the screen again outside of reality TV, while the former provides the perfect deadbeat DJ dad.
The writing is, to pick an appropriate phrase, on point, it captures that world and its attitudes so well, it feels entirely real. It brings through that palpable awkwardness in such an effective manner that it’s a little hard to watch at times but it’s using that in its favour which is actually quite clever when it’s backed up by a well paced progression to his murderous antics. Also credit has to go to whoever wrote all of the live video comments, there are so many of them and again, it feels very real. Its overall message, particularly held in the ending, is poignant about the morality of the internet, anonymity and how short attention spans are these days, moving from horrified to completely disillusioned or complacent.
Kotlyarenko’s direction is well done, it feeds directly into the YouTuber feel with Kurt’s well and truly camera’d out car and he uses those multiple angles very well, especially allowing for some quick, sharp editing that feeds into its great pace. It purposefully uses all the awkward, clumsy shots that you’d get from anyone filming themselves but it does so in a way that it never takes away from the scene it uses different ways to always ensure you get the full picture.
Spree is observant, deceptively clever and intensely awkward, it will make you want to cringe, to look away or maybe even want to stop watching and yet you simply can’t help being glued to it. Joe Keery gives the perfect performance as Kurt, you can easily imagine there being many like him out there undiscovered, striving to get out of obscurity and all you can do is hope they don’t start killing people too. The direction does really well to recreate a mix of YouTube and Instagram experiences, as well as using CCTV, it’s almost like watching a true crime documentary, in how it only creates footage that’s been recorded by Kurt or those around him. You have to give the filmmakers credit here for making something that initially makes you not want to like it, only to draw you in more and more as time goes on.