Bailey is a previous darling of video sharing site str33ker, whose unprecedented run on the top spot was brought to an end by a rival vlogger gaining public sympathy by dying of cancer. Soon afterwards she and her flatmate Emma begin being stalked, with the masked prowler posting their exploits to the same site, giving Bailey’s popularity a much-needed boost and leaving her reluctant to see an end to the proxy harassment. Although, with Los Angeles’ most staggeringly inept police officer on the case, there’s not too much chance of that anyway.
Satirising the desire for internet fame is trickier than you might think. Something that largely comes about through people’s desperation for validation through notoriety is such a ridiculous concept to begin with that any attempt to ridicule it can easily look inherently redundant. However, Clickbait craftily sidesteps the problem by its subject not so much being the desire for fame, but rather the absurdity of the material with which people attain it, and by extension that of those who readily consume it.
The film is riddled with stylistic references to past horror masters, in particular Dario Argento and John Carpenter, where nightmares both figurative and literal are made manifest in a surreal and lurid world recognisable as a slightly skewed facsimile of reality, which allows the sardonic concept to seem credible within context. The featured content is no less ridiculous than some of the attention-seeking nonsense YouTube is awash with, but since as a society we ironically hold our fiction to higher standards of internally consistent plausibility than we do our everyday reality, the off-kilter setting renders the histrionics more palatable. Thus, the notion of people cheerfully lapping up the exploits of a potentially psychotic murderer as he invades the lives of two young women is something not too difficult to accept.
The director duo of Sophia Cacciola and Michael J Epstein again deftly construct a self-contained world, this time a corner of the internet where status is the only thing that matters. The social commentary comes out a little more heavy-handed than the likes of Ten or Blood of the Tribades, but to be fair much of internet stardom is the result of being completely shameless, so in accurately portraying it anything even remotely resembling subtlety would have been the first thing to go out the window.
What little we see of Bailey’s actual filmmaking is decidedly unremarkable, and the recognition she attained from it juxtaposed with similar popularity as a result of her being stalked by a masked maniac slyly and tacitly comments on people’s willingness to watch anything so long as they can ogle a pretty girl while doing so.
A scathing observation of the habits of the internet age, Clickbait asks us to take a hard look at our online viewing habits and the true reasons for our enjoyment of the darker things that appeal to us, and demands we truly consider the kinds of things we might be inadvertently complicit in.
CLICKBAIT / CERT: TBA / DIRECTOR: SOPHIA CACCIOLA, MICHAEL J EPSTEIN / SCREENPLAY: JEREMY LONG, MICHAEL J EPSTEIN / STARRING: AMANDA COLBY STEWART, BRANDI AGUILAR, SETH CHATFIELD, RYAN JAMES HILT, IKAIKA JONATHAN, MAKEDA KUMASI / RELEASE DATE: TBA