ALSO KNOWN AS: Surprises scare me so much I’ll tell you the ending of my film in its title.
GENRE: “Horror” film about the “horrors” of social media.
James Corbett is a man. That is an almost irrefutable statement stemming from the fact that his first name is James. And, apparently, he is also a renowned filmmaker, if we are suddenly considering internet points as a real commodity, that is. You may not know him as the guy responsible for “that short film about Snapchat that went viral for about 20 minutes and then died out”, his one and only call to fame, because you didn’t get the chance to hear about it before the fad went away. Said film made him almost famous for almost a day.
He achieved such a level of famousness, in fact, that if one were to ask Google about him, the search engine would cough up an overwhelmingly accurate “I don’t know.” According to its results, James Corbett is either an English author specializing on soccer matters, a guy who has dedicated his life to producing thousands of hours of podcasts containing “alternative news” who has definitely never heard of a man named Stephen Colbert or the TV show he hosts, a car part sculptor that is pretty darn rad, or an American boxer who died in 1933. This time, I’m leaning towards the latter.
Whoever he really is, the fact remains: a couple of weeks ago, he unleashed a short film by the name of Murder On Snapchat – because screw you, suspense, you’re overrated. The non-mystery of its plot notwithstanding, a bunch of people managed to watch his seven-minute oeuvre, faked their enjoyment, and moved on with their lives as if nothing ever happened. This we know because the E! Entertainment equivalent of internet gossip, Kotaku, and the only apparent active writer they seem to possess, Patricia Hernandez, did a feature about the thing. And by ‘feature’, I, of course, mean “embedded video with nothing but 70 words worth of text”.
So, since my Facebook home page was being bombarded by the shared links of an acquaintance that might as well be working for Kotaku given her tendency to flood our newsfeeds with nothing but links to that page, I fell into the peer pressure exerted over me by no peer at all. I was going to watch the damn video, not enjoy it, grunt, and then, as many had done before me, move on with my life (after generously letting my acquaintance know how much I didn’t enjoy the ordeal). At least, that was the original resolve. However, my internet modem wasn’t in the mood of doing something as mundane as “buffering a seven-minute video”, thus extending the activity for far more hours than it needed to be. Six hours, to be precise.
As soon as my mouse followed the aforementioned link, I clicked “Play” on the video window and witnessed the first six seconds of the film. And then nothing. The continuously spinning ball of future buffers stopped the thing dead on its digital feet, letting me feast my eyes on the eyes of what I could only assume was our protagonist. The first grunt of a long evening came to be. The sun was still high above the clouds, and the promise of a fully loaded video lied far beyond my reach. Unfortunately, just by those six seconds, I already knew exactly what was in store.
There is such a thing as “choosing your title carefully”, which I think James Corbett lacks. It needs to have the right balance between “I am intrigued about the film hiding behind this arrangement of letters” and informing exactly what the audience could expect from the experience. Take, for instance, Avenging Disco Godfather. Just right there you have every bit of information you need to know in order to assess if you are the right audience for such a movie. Same with Snakes On A Plane or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Everything’s right there, on the title, if you possess the ability to read. Even if you haven’t seen a single frame worth of footage from any of those films, you can pretty much conjure a precise mental image about their plots. And, more often than not, you will be right.
On the other hand, we have Murder On Snapchat. If you, by any chance, know the meaning of all three words, the whole experience has been spoiled. “Murder” is an easy one. It is the act of killing someone who does not want to be dead. “On” is a tricky one since not even English-speaking persons seem to understand how their own prepositions are supposed to work but, out on a whim, I would say it is an indication of a light bulb emitting light. Finally, there’s “Snapchat”. That one was a new word for me.
So, seeing as my internet connection had struggled more than three hours with itself to buffer almost four minutes of content, I thought I had enough time to dig into the knowledge bed bunk that is the world wide web and find out for myself. It was a disappointing journey.
Snapchat is nothing but a photo messaging application exclusively on the “exclusive” iOS portable systems that promise to make you a better human being by shelling out more money that you can afford. Its only “redeeming quality” is that the pictures messaged by this thing are destroyed a few seconds after they are seen. And that’s about it. Color me unimpressed. Supposedly this is quite the rage with the kids nowadays, but I managed to find not a single contact of mine that had this thing installed in their devices. My solely Snapchat companion was a person under the name of “weareone_4evr”. (S)He sent me some interesting pictures and riddles, but our conversation turned stale way before the short film that forced me to download this thing was completely buffered.
But that is the main issue with this short film. It hinges on the notion that, since you are able to pay for an internet connection, you SURELY have the spare change needed to grab yourself an iPhone, thus knowing exactly what Snapchat is and how it works. What, you have an Android or a Windows Phone, you say? Well this movie is not for you, you low-life! Go watch something poor people like you can afford!
We’re off to great start.
One saving grace came out of this unenlightening non-adventure, though. The already thin-as-a-wafer plot hiding inside the loading bar of the video became even more predictable. Because, once you know how Snapchat works, the dash of mystery that might still be left on Murder On Snapchat disappears out of existence. When you receive a picture on Snapchat, a little countdown box appears at the top right corner of the screen signaling how much time left does said image have until it is destroyed before your very eyes. When you press play on Murder On Snapchat, you are greeted by a close-up look of a man’s eyes and a little countdown box at the top right corner of the screen. Oh, gee! I wonder who could the murdered one promised in the title be? The suspense is killing me!
Now that I knew the ‘who’ and the ‘what’, all that was left was to discover the why – and possibly the how, but I didn’t feel like stretching it by this point. And, thankfully, after six long hours worth of digital sweat, my internet connection managed to buffer the whole thing through. Thus, I collected all the mildew hype gathered on the comments below the video and readied my mind to be blown away to bits. That’s precisely when I noticed a little “HD” button near the volume settings of the embedded video. It turns out I just needed to toggle the video definition to a standard 240p, and my video would’ve buffered right there, on the spot, instead of after a quarter of a day. I was so proud of myself. So proud, in fact, I gave myself a pat on the forehead. A really hard pat on the forehead.
And you know who should be proud of themselves as well? James Corbett. He has an astonishing sense of good casting. The actor choice for the protagonist of his short film is superb. Murder On Snapchate is the “enthralling” story of a douchebag guy that uses social media in order to cheat on what we suppose might be his girlfriend. He has one chick on Facebook, and another one on his self-esteem machine… I mean, iPhone. Which one is his actual girlfriend? It is impossible to tell. The female characters are so blatantly there just so we know our character has access to two naked bodies on a daily basis they’re practically the same person with a different name. But, on the bright side, our main character looks like the most stereotypical “just got out of jail for the fourth time and I’m barely 19” kind of latino possible. He even has the perpetual angry mug and skin imperfections to match! In other words, we are meant to hate him before we even know he’s a two-timing asshole. Kudos on that call, Mr. Corbett. I’m sure the actor is a good friend of yours and has the heart of gold every film hooker purports to have, but since I don’t know him personally, I sincerely do not care. We’re here for his portrayal, not his personality – which, incidentally, his character does not have.
After we get to hate him at first sight, we witness his douchebaggery unfold in real time from his POV, in what I must concede is a very well realized split-screen business that actually does move the story forward instead of just looking cool and impressing someone’s AV teacher. It’s here when we get to “know” the only three “characters” of the story, and watch the unnamed dude flirt with both girls via both different mediums at the same time. It’s a nice visual touch that only a so-called millennial could muster, and I salute said millennial for his effort. However, a golden star of good effort is as much as this film will ever deserve, since the “twist” at the end makes everything that came before it completely worthless.
If the thing is not telegraphed enough for the viewer thus far, let’s recap.
- The thing’s called MURDER on SNAPCHAT.
- The first ever photogram of the short film is a close-up of a man’s eyes accompanied by the countdown box appearing on a sent image on Snapchat.
- Our main character is a sad excuse of a human being that is actively trying to have sex with two different women at the same time.
- Five of the seven minutes of the film go by us watching this guy drool over both women.
- These two women supposedly do not know each other.
- The thing’s called MURDER. ON. SNAPCHAT.
However, I once heard a psychologist tell her students that people tend to enjoy films far more when they know the ending beforehand, so I pushed on, still hoping to have the sudden need to mop the insides of my mind off of the wall behind me. Besides, I had waited for so long for this and I was not going to leave the deed halfway through. Junior high, this was not.
Despite my low hopes, I found myself cheering for the short film, looking for the ever elusive ghost of probable greatness trapped inside a far out corner of the movie. But, the more I watched, the less I cared. The more the “conversations” dragged on, including as many “clever” innuendos as possible, the more I noticed the beauty of the sense of hearing, or, in this case, the lack of.
By clicking play on the video we might be forced to watch the unmoving, unsympathetic and emotionless face of a man, but at least there is stuff moving all around the place to avoid focusing too much on the fact that this dude picks his face way more than he should. The film looks really neat, with everything in its rightful place, aided by the aforementioned split-screen gimmick that keeps changing its place so it doesn’t tire out our lack of imagination, and the overall picture is crisp and well-lit. It’s good. Nothing really impressive, though, but no eye socket’s going to bleed after watching the video through and through. It’s pleasing enough.
The sound editing, on the other hand, is as ghastly as my sister’s “private” life. There is a song present throughout, and the song by itself is not that bad, but one could not do a worse sound design job unless it was on purpose. And even so, it would be brutally hard to achieve this level of amateurness. Every time a sound came out of the video, I had to pause it because I feared another open tab decided it was time to play one of those annoying musicalized spam ads that wants to tell you who you were on your past life. It is cringe-inducingly bad – I would know; I cringed. The sound covers the whole picture whenever it’s present like a badly wrapped Christmas present. It ended up being so distracting, it seemed like I was doing one of those dual-video things where you press play on two videos at the same time and pray to your nearest deity for them to match up. The key difference being that doing that which I just described would be far more appeasing to the senses. It, at least, would make more sense to a fully-formed brain than this cacophony of generic noises.
But despite the intrusiveness of the sound bits, they could never manage to be as bad as when the “characters” speak. Dear Lord, do they suck! They manage to scare away the meaning of the words sputtering from their pie holes forevermore. If these small tidbits of dialogue were the best recorded version possible, I shudder at the thought of how the “bad takes” sounded like. And I have a hunch the director was also concerned about his actors’ ability to speak, because the dialogue is scarce and far between. Which, conversely, makes it a good thing that most of the communication between characters is delivered via text and emoticons – with a surprising amount of grammatical errors and real-time rewrites, I might add (to add realism to the whole experience, of course, not because the actors are language impaired). This gimmick, combined with the visual aspect, is the only thing that makes Murder On Snapchat worthwhile, if only to witness a “new” (in the loosest way possible) form of storytelling.
Anyways, the film goes on and on until a shady figure appears in the background of one of the Snapchats, kidnaps one of the girls, and proceeds to demand the lord of two-timing to hurry up to her house or else she’ll be killed. Fill in the blanks for yourself.
It all ends with the aforementioned murder taking place when the countdown reaches zero. A lifeless body now lies on the floor, waiting expectantly for someone to resolve the questions proposed by the writer of his fate. Bad people get their comeuppance; bad murderers laugh their way home believing they have committed the perfect crime; and bad filmmakers spam the Twitter feeds of quality sites such as Upworthy or Newsfeed in the hopes of being spotlighted for making an unexceptional short film before it drowns inside its own gaping plot holes.
And so, after six hours and seven minutes of my life devoted to watching a short film that might have sounded amazing on paper, I found myself feeling even emptier than when it all began. I didn’t even have the necessary energy to post my thoughts on the video’s comment section. Even if I could, my modem’s connection would surely foil my plans before I could put them in motion. Instead, I had to settle with letting my pillow absorb a single muffled scream and cursing my way to sleep.