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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

BAFF 2018: FRAMED live streams insightful frights

"The time will come when our personality begins and our viral existence ends. That will be a real fucking mess! You won't exist without internet." This quote from the new Spanish horror film Framed sums up the complex ideas that the film manages to explore underneath its bloody exterior.

The concept is a simple one that essentially combines something like The Strangers and Nerve: a group of friends is terrorized in their home by a psychopathic stranger who is streaming the whole thing live on the web in an attempt to get as many viewers as possible. We've seen this kind of thing before, but perhaps not as well, not as successful as a horror movie, and certainly not as cleverly.

From the opening shot, full of neon and bursting out of blackness with booming sound design, its clear that the viewer is in for a treat. Framed is shot very well, with beautifully stylized lighting that defies the usual drabness that accompanies home invasion style horror. Picking any frame at random, I'm struck by the strong color contrast, from the light blues to warm yellows to bloody reds. The sound design throughout, while at times a little cliche in its jump scare stabs, is incredibly effective; the gooshy gore sounds and glitchy transitions really sell the scares. Throw in the pumping electronic music that starts during the intensely cool opening credits sequence and you've got a lot to sink your visual and auditory teeth into.

Speaking of gore, this movie is not for the faint of heart. The kills are often brutal, from dismemberment to zombie-style neck bites. Particularly disturbing is one kill that involves a knife to the head that the victim survives, meaning his death is drawn out over much of the movie in a way that will make you continually cringe. The practical effects are great, and the makeup team deserves a special shout out for the purpling bruises and gashes that look oh-so-painful.

As a surface level horror film, it plays a bit like a torture porn home invasion crossover, something almost like a gorier Funny Games, but the real surprise treat is that there is much more to the film than blood for blood's sake. There's an element of economics as a character complains that due to the lack of jobs in Spain, he has to try to make scary videos to upload and make a few Euros. Later, the characters realize that nearly all of them have jobs that involve "being as viral as possible," even the guy helping poor children in Africa get connected to the internet.

The same character also happens to be the very first viewer of "Amusement in Somebody Else's Home," the channel that will eventually broadcast their own torment. On top of the more obvious social commentary of the millions of viewers that continually tune into the violence from the comfort of their own homes, this clever moment implies a more individual responsibility; we are all complicit in the increasing violence on the web, even when we know it hurts us. This is taken further as the television news at first is horrified by this new media phenomenon, but eventually latches on enthusiastically as viewership rises.

Another interesting bit that sets this film apart is that the killer uses strange drugs to control his victims, making them obey his every command or turning them into animalistic creatures. While this aspect pushes the limits of the believability of the situation, it does act as a powerful metaphor for how we as a society have given control of our lives over to the realm of the internet.

Overall, Framed is an impressive achievement in modern horror. Whether you're looking for a bloodsoaked gorefest with over-the-top kills or something with some thought and commentary behind it, you'll be satisfied. I expected something far less polished and well thought out, and was pleasantly surprised!

Framed will be screening this Saturday 11/17 at 4pm as part of Buried Alive Film Festival 2018 in Atlanta Georgia. You can support and follow the film by visiting their website and Facebook page.
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