Joe Keery as Kurt Kunkle
Sasheer Zamata as Jessie Adams
David Arquette as Kris Kunkle
Kyle Mooney as Miles Vandermille
Mischa Barton as London
Frankie Grande as Richard
Josh Ovalle as Bobby
Co-Written and Directed by Eugene Kotlyarenko; Co-Written by Gene McHugh
Every generation sees young people around the globe find a new pathway to try and rise to fame and social media has proven to be one of the most toxic and dangerous for the personalities it has created and while most films that touch upon the matter have explored the theme in a more dramatic fashion, Eugene Kotlyarenko’s Spree gives the subject a darkly comedic slasher approach that proves to be a thrilling ride, albeit mildly predictable.
Meet Kurt (Joe Keery), a 23-year-old rideshare driver for Spree, who is so desperate for social media attention that he’ll stop at nothing to go viral. He comes up with a plan to livestream a rampage as a shortcut to infamy – coining his evil scheme “#thelesson”, he installs a set of cameras in his car and begins streaming his rides. Wildly miscalculating the popularity that would come from his lethal scheme, Kurt’s desperation grows as he tries to find a way to overcome the plan’s flaws. In the middle of all this madness, a stand-up comedian (Sasheer Zamata) with her own viral agenda crosses Kurt’s path and becomes the only hope to put a stop to his misguided carnage.
From minute one, the film presents itself as a pretty grounded and authentic portrayal of the various people around the country who make their whole lives about trying to become the next viral hit on the internet, with the opening writing believably introducing Kurt as someone audiences will want to watch and even possibly sympathize with. Of course in an effort to keep the pace rolling and get to the juicier and more bloody series of events, the script doesn’t give audiences a lot of time to see him as a potentially-good person before seeing his more psychotic nature. That being said, it’s not a flaw of the film as part of the fun of seeing a slasher through the killer’s eyes is seeing his darker side and boy oh boy do we get to see it.
Aside from one little gem saved for an attempt at a late-game shocker, Kotlyarenko and McHugh revel in showing audiences every horrible atrocity committed by Kurt and his preparations for becoming a killer under the guise of a driver for the titular ridesharing company. From poisoned water bottles to abandoned junkyards with vicious dogs to power drills, the duo come up with a number of ingenious and shocking manners of death for the unlucky souls to hop into Kurt’s car and is an absolute horror to watch unfold on screen.
While the effective genre thrills add up to enough of a fun time for the film, it is even further bolstered by the performances from its ensemble cast, with Joe Keery completely shedding his mostly-nice-guy persona from Netflix’s Stranger Things and fully immersing himself in the manic and delirious mind of Kurt. While Steve Harrington is an effortlessly cool and suave twentysomething unsure about his path in life, Kurt is a dorky, needy twentysomething so desperate to break out on social media and there was not a second in the film in which I didn’t believe Keery actually was his character.
The cast surrounding Keery are all also an absolute delight to watch from their starts to their finishes, with Sasheer Zamata proving to be an equally funny and compelling foil to Keery’s Kurt while genre icon David Arquette is a laugh riot as his out-of-touch DJ father who still fears for his son’s safety even if he’s not so involved in his son’s life to see the warning signs of his disturbing behavior.
As the film nears its final 20-30 minutes and the shit truly hits the fan, the film starts to dive into trope-y territory and becomes a bit predictable for the horror and slasher genres, but it doesn’t subtract from the exciting events proceeding it and thanks to a plenty game performance from Keery, incredibly effective direction from Kotlyarenko and a sharp script, Spree is a plenty timely and shocking ride audiences need to hop on.