Mark Polish, the less prolific filmmaker twin of Michael Polish, has little to say about today’s young people in Murmurwho wants to be a Blair Witch for digital natives. Throwing half a dozen boring social media producers into the forest with only their cell phones and a deeply dodgy game they won’t stop playing might have sounded like a cautionary tale if only it maintained some sort of away from its protagonists. . Instead, it’s fully onboard for TikTok’s screen-based storytelling and attention span, with the result that most viewers not addicted to that stuff will find it unbearable from its first moments. Even setting those opinions aside, its value as a chilling horror image is close to zero, and as screen-based mayhem goes, it ranks far below its peers as Party.
Murmur is the name of a new app that, like Pokémon Go (hello old folks), uses your phone screen to bring digital elements into the real world. It’s kind of a game, but no one on this five-person YouTube team seems to know more than that. So why not hire a van, hike through a completely abandoned part of Redwood National Park, and leave ourselves deliberately stranded as we discover it on the fly? Surely the videos of this will result in a lot of engagement on the channel? Flash-forward to a press conference, where local authorities discuss the bodies found next to six cellphones, suggesting things won’t go that way.
(A sixth person – their estranged pal Maze – came here independently and will meet our gang after being estranged from her own mate and seeming to forget she even exists.)
Angel (Cyrus Arnold) and Buster (Johnny Jay Lee) represent some of the loudest types of content producers: respectively, those who never know when to stop making lame jokes (especially about sexual organs), and those who keep trying to Maximize the appeal of the everyday life screen. If you find the average YouTube channel’s aggressive self-promotion, you’ll love watching the movie Buster take after take of the same intro, trying to hit the right note of high-energy overconfidence.
Joining these two are Tiger and Kenzie (Logan Polish, the director’s daughter, and Megan Lee), and Zach (Brandon Wilson), the quiet guy who runs the group’s prosumer camera gear. Colin Ford’s (Tiger’s brother, real name Matthew) maze, whose chain is apparently much hotter than the one these guys run, will soon cross paths with them, swinging a real sword in the woods for some reason while wearing a VR headset.
If you’re a character in a slasher movie, chances are you’re among the dullest representatives of your demographic that a screenwriter (probably twice your age) could imagine. But these kids don’t even seem to like each other a lot, and they scatter through the woods with no clear motivation except, naturally, out of earshot of each other. A tempting idea, but in this case bad.
Polish offers little of the POV activity found in conventional slasher movies, opting instead for a much less persuasive mood-setter: we see a whole lot of spooky stuff (from spooky flora to boars and zombies ) that don’t exist anywhere but on screens. our heroes are glued. If they had just hung up the phones, maybe they would be less inclined to walk into bear traps and get impaled on tree branches?
These things both happen, with so little drama in the execution that you can miss the event itself and be stuck with only the long suffering that such mishaps entail. While some members of the group fear bleeding, others are far away, arguing with the app’s customer service reps or discovering decaying houses they know they shouldn’t enter. But they do, uncovering more questions the movie doesn’t care enough to answer.
Amid the camera’s careless insults and complaints, fluent insults and complaints, a bored viewer might nitpick at the details of Polish’s technical approach. In a film ostensibly constructed from cellphone and security camera footage, how do the visible sprocket holes of celluloid and static electricity reminiscent of VHS tracking issues appear here? Is cellphone data coverage really that good in the Redwoods? Who would subscribe to the videos these uncharismatic guys make?
“Honestly,” one said halfway through, “I wonder why the fuck is this happening?” Excellent question.