The Movie Waffler New to Netflix - SPREE | The Movie Waffler

New to Netflix - SPREE

spree review
Desperate for internet fame, a rideshare driver livestreams the murders of his passengers.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Eugene Kotlyarenko

Starring: Joe Keery, Sasheer Zamata, David Arquette, Kyle Mooney, Mischa Barton

spree poster

The typical profile of a serial killer is someone (almost exclusively a white male) who doesn't stand out in a crowd, the type of person whose name you forget five seconds after they introduce themselves. That's how they get to be serial killers, because nobody notices them and thus, nobody suspects them. Kurt Kunkle (Joe Keery), the young protagonist of director Eugene Kotlyarenko's Spree, is a serial killer who desperately wants to be noticed. The joke is that even when he broadcasts his crimes live on the internet, nobody's logging on to witness them.

spree review

An opening montage allows Kurt to introduce himself. He describes himself as though he's a huge internet star, and proudly boasts of his social media empire, 'Kurt's World'. But after the sugar rush of Kurt's enthusiastic bragging, a title card brings us back to earth, informing us that despite plugging away for a decade, Kurt's YouTube views have never so much as hit double digits. Desperate to become a star, Kurt, a driver for the Uber-esque rideshare company 'Spree', rigs up his car with cameras for a special livestream he has dubbed 'The Lesson'. Injecting bottles of water with poison, Kurt knocks out a series of one-dimensional, obnoxious passengers before disposing of them in various gruesome manners, all while livestreaming. Trouble is, his only viewer is Bobby (Josh Ovalle), a genuine internet star whom Kurt babysat for in his younger days. Desperate to piggyback on Bobby's clout, Kurt ups the ante, and sets his sights on killing another online star, comedienne Jessie Adams (Sasheer Zamata).

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If you've seen movies like Man Bites Dog or Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, in which serial killers document their hobby to an attentive film crew, you'll have a passing familiarity with the setup of Spree. Of course, this being the era of the gig economy and self reliance, Kurt doesn't have a professional documentary crew following him around and has to resort to a DIY approach. Despite its very modern aesthetic, with the screen often divided to represent various apps, Spree's cringe-comedy feels dated. Beyond the aforementioned movies, not to mention Mary Harron's American Psycho adaptation, you can trace this sort of humour back to the likes of Fawlty Towers. Like Basil Fawlty, Kurt Kunkle is a wannabe social climber who holds "little people" in the same sort of contempt his "influencer" idols reserve for him. With so many movies and TV shows having explored this idea in the wake of the success of Ricky Gervais's David Brent, it all feels a little too familiar at this point. Equally stale is its one-note message regarding the dangers of seeking superficial fame.

spree review

Kurt's exploits are certainly cringy, but so too at times is the film they're packaged in. Like Kurt, the movie itself often feels like it doesn't really understand how social media operates, and with its manic pace and numbing, pounding soundtrack, you get the sense that Kotlyarenko is trying a little too hard to get his message across to "the kids." After the initial novelty, at some point I began to get the same feeling I experienced back in Catholic school whenever a priest would enter the classroom wielding an acoustic guitar.

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If you can look past the somewhat hypocritical superficiality of its presentation, Spree does offer enough in the way of energetic thrills to keep you from cancelling its manic ride. Keery is a winning presence, and while his Kurt is unambiguously a psycho, there is something oddly endearing about his naivety. David Arquette livens things up as Kurt's deadbeat DJ dad, himself obsessed with social clout.

spree review

Spree wants to scold social media while also exploiting its dopamine rush appeal. It wants to impart a message while also being a rollercoaster ride. While the message is paper thin, the ride is often a blast. As with the social media it critiques, the best way to approach Spree is to view it as a trivial distraction. Don't take it too seriously and you might have some fun with it.

Spree is on Netflix UK now.

2020 movie reviews