NOTE: Here is my review from Soda & Telepaths that was posted back on February 16, 2021
The world of social media fame is… weird, to say the least. Some people require years of training in a specific skill in order to get fame, other’s can just look pretty and do a good smokey eye and get a million Instagram fans. That second one would describe Mia (Daisye Tutor), a social media ‘celebrity’ with a huge number of followers and a very specific brand that she puts forward to those followers.
Of course, that brand that she puts forward isn’t a reflection of what she’s really like, she’s known to be kind of neglectful to her family and only cares about her other famous Instagram friends.
For once she finally decides to do something decent for her sister Nicole (Emily Goss), who happens to have the same degenerative disease that took their mother, and puppysit Nicole’s dog while Nicole goes to San Francisco for a procedure that might help her. Of course, since Mia is home alone and this is a horror movie that means Mia is soon set upon by creepy calls and texts and eventually put in a position to have to choose which of her friends lives or dies.
I’m not going to beat around the bush here and provide the one content warning about Shook that will undoubtedly make some people immediately go “Oh, got it, not for me” and that’s that there’s a lot of dog murder in this film. Like, it’s an actual plot point that the town has a weird dog murderer going around and that dog murderer has escalated to humans.
There’s a scene that, for some reason, has Mia looking up news articles about this dog murderer which include a lot of videos of the murdered dogs. I won’t lie that it’s confronting and feels like it didn’t need to be there and I’m aware that there are people who look up Doesthedogdie.com before going to see any movie, so I saved you that click.
If you can get past that, the rest of Shook is actually pretty good, considering it’s clearly working with some serious budget limitations. It plays a lot like the opening scene from Scream, albeit stretched out to an hour and a half. We never leave this one house for anything other than the opening sequence and that single location is used to its full capacity to create some genuinely fascinating moments of atmosphere. Just the way it plays with the lighting or framing things in a certain way to make the viewer feel as isolated at Mia, it all works well to create some genuinely tense moment.
Shook also has a visual style that can best be described as “Let’s try everything and see what works” and in a weird way, that kind of works. Text conversations are literally projected onto the walls around the main character, videos they watch are suddenly recreated in the space around them.
You get the sense that they knew that just filming a phone would be boring and that just relying on the main actress to carry everything on her own would be too taxing for the amount of time they had planned on doing it so they found these tricks to make it look visually interesting.
There’s also a lot more to this than just a typical home invasion horror flick, Shook is calling out the fakeness of internet celebrities. I can’t even really call it subtext, it’s just flat out text that this film wants you to know that most internet celebrities are fake and either create a persona that doesn’t line up to their reality or they only show you select things in order to look better.
Shook does this brilliantly in the first scene with one simple change of camera angle, a shot that makes the point so perfectly that I had to applaud it. It’s a big recurring theme that keeps popping up throughout the film, even up to the bonkers climax.
Now, this isn’t to say there aren’t some big problems here. Shook has that “College film” vibe with the visuals not being as crisp as could be, I almost want to know how the colour correction went to try and make the shots a lot better. While some of the visual tricks they throw out work, there’s a fair few that almost feel like they just wanted to try something else (there’s a couple of split screen shots near the end that just have no purpose)
Then there’s the Shook soundtrack… look, I’m not saying you need a great score, but this one felt like they bought random tracks from a cheap music website and threw them in the editing timeline at random and there were points where it was distracting from the main action. The good thing about these little issues is that being a low budget horror, a lot of these problems are fairly forgivable and can be pushed through.
If you can handle the dog murder stuff, Shook is a fun little horror film that’s got some serious ambition. It has a point to make and does it with a wicked grin plastered on its face. It absolutely won’t be for everyone, but there’s fun to be had here.
Some good performances and a lot of interesting visual ideas gives Shook a style that’s interesting enough to help it go beyond the limits it clearly has. It’s a good film, maybe not great but certainly good and considering how few good films there’ve been lately, I’ll take it!