Rating: 4 out of 5.

The newest entry in the Screen Life genre of filmmaking, #Blue_Whale, is a horror mish-mash of The Ring, The Suicide Club, Unfriended, and Nerve. The voyeuristic creepiness and disturbing visuals recur frequently enough to leave a lasting impression. Produced by Timur Bekmambetov and offering up a directorial debut from Anna Zaytseva, this terrifying piece of modern horror follows one fascinating character, Dana (Anna Potebnya), as she gets in over her head in the dangerous corners of the web—the darkest parts of Facebook knockoff, Netbook.

Dana starts investigating because she wants to know why her sister, Yulya, ultimately took her own life—what is the meaning behind the strange phenomena of practically ritualistic suicides? Who is pulling the strings—is murder involved or just coercion? A creepy mask dripping with painted on blood is part of it… Could it all be rooted in a mysterious game known only as The Whale Game? One online cutie (Timofey Eletskiy) may be Dana’s only hope to make it out of this twisted game alive.

An effective alternative title for #Blue_Whale would just be Trigger Warning: The Movie. From the plot involving a suicide-assisting social media group, there is clearly a wide array of different types of traumatic deaths that will be portrayed. They are all gory and singular, but of course disturbing and unnerving. The recurring blue whale motif is always hanging the aura of the title’s importance over the viewer like a prodding reminder of creepy insight.

A live stream chase scene that is as thrilling and inventive as the best in the slasher genre is a highlight in the latter half, which puts the audience right in the thick of things. Adding in the live stream element is a clever way to keep the format from running stale as one follows this character on her journey in practically real time. It all begs the biggest question of all: how far would you go to get answers? “Soon, you will all be whales!”

#Blue_Whale screened at the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival.

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