Antisocial 2

Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 09/09/15 12:16:53

"Not an upgrade."
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

SCREENED AT THE 2015 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: When you see something like the pretty-decent 2013 film "Antisocial" at a festival with the filmmakers there, someone always asks about a sequel; it's almost as obligatory a question as "what was your budget?" and "how much was improvised?" The response is usually a description of something bigger and different, although everyone there knows that it's not actually going to happen. Sometimes it does, and as a result we sometimes find out that this may be a bad idea.

In this case, the filmmakers posit that the "mimetic virus" that appeared on the Redroom social network on the previous New Year's Eve went global, enough that much of the world is zombie-like "users", with the uninfected calling those who have survived via emergency trepanation "defects". That includes Sam (Michelle Mylett), the first film's survivor, who turns out to have been pregnant and is about to give birth as the action starts. A religious fanatic (Kristina Nicoll) takes her baby and leaves her to bleed out when labor comes. She doesn't, and her search for her baby leads her to cross paths with Bean (Josette Halpert), a teenage runaway from a nearby army base where her father Max (Stephen Bogaert) will do just about anything to stop the upcoming "upgrade". He also seems to consider defects subhuman, with Bean no exception.

Why is a sequel a bad idea? In this case, it's because there's just not really a level on which this thing makes any sort of sense. As neat a concept as a social network which swallows its users might have been, getting more detail reveals that this thing that tapped into a modern fear doesn't make conceptual sense as when examined closely: Zombies who don't create original exploitable content are a bug, not a feature as far as this sort of website is concerned, and while the feared "upgrade" actually leading to more user autonomy would be a neat ironic ending, the script has not been imbued with that sort of cleverness.

Also, following through to a post-apocalyptic setting raises a bunch of practical questions: Just who is keeping the infrastructure running - are there power plants and server rooms whose zombies are doing something productive? Are there robots? Who is coding this upgrade? On the other side of tings, the story rests precariously on nobody ever even trying to share information and Max being a mad scientist who thinks torture and stress will reveal everything better than asking questions (he screams "I need answers" without having actually asked anything at one point). It's just frustratingly dumb, especially as the people who could see connections just never happen to be anywhere near each other.

It's also the sort of movie which tries to get you to fist-pump for how the first film's survivor now being a badass chick with an axe for fifteen minutes, but then has her cuffed to things and tortured for half the movie. Shame, because Michelle Mylett is still impressive, as is young Josette Halpert as the girl who falls in with her. Stephen Bogaert is chewing scenery, but he's doing it enthusiastically.

Those looking for some science-fictional blood & guts without being particularly concerned for how they're justified will at least get what they came for; director Cody Calahan and his partners at Black Fawn Films (including co-writers Chad Archibald and Jeff Maher) are pretty good at squeezing an impressive gross-out or two from a small budget. Maher can shoot a good-looking picture, and the crew makes the most of their locations and resources, so it looks a lot better than it is. And there are one or two clever bits to be found in there as well.

A few good pieces doesn't make up for the rest, though. In some ways, it's bizarre that "Antisocial" even got a sequel - how cheap was the first one, and how many DVDs did it sell, for the math to work out? That it has this one, though, should certainly make film festival-goers remember to be careful what they ask for in the future.

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