Where last year’s Unfriended looked at the dark, sinister side of social networking, i-Lived, from Franck Khalfoun who directed the 2012 Elijah Wood-starring remake of the classic 1980 slasher Maniac, sets out to warn us about the potential perils of the ubiquitous phone app, those handy/irritating (delete as) programs which clutter up our mobile phones and make us waste far too much time which we’d rather be wasting on something equally facile. If you thought The Angry Birds Movie did a comprehensive job of putting you off phone apps, think again: i-Lived is in a slightly different class and is only marginally less terrifying than the prospect of ninety minutes in the cinema watching animated birds hurl themselves at animated pigs. What a world…
Zach (Jeremiah Watkins) is a vlogger (hey, we’re down with the kids here at STARBURST) who reviews new phone apps on his moderately-popular internet channel. He comes across an app called i-Lived which promises the user than they can change their lives for the better if they follow its carefully-prescriptive instructions. When its advices helps him to hook up with a beautiful girl in a bar he begins to think that i-Lived might just have something going for it. All he has to do, it seems, is follow a few simple instructions, carry out a few good deeds and his heart’s desire can be his for the taking. Before long his channel becomes incredibly popular, his terminally-ill mother makes a miraculous recovery and he lands his dream job in a computer company. Job done, he unsubscribes from i-Lived and suddenly his new-found good fortune begins to slip away from him… His new girlfriend cheats on him, his mother suffers a relapse, his job prospects disappear; Josh has no choice but to re-subscribe to i-Lived – but to get back what he’s lost he has to carry out ever darker and more sinister tasks at the behest of the faceless computer program.
i-Lived is a refreshingly brisk, no-nonsense thriller which becomes increasingly bleak and uncomfortable as Zach’s fortunes deteriorate. Zach himself is initially difficult to warm to because of his magnificently-irritating online persona – you’ll want to reach into the screen and give him a good slap and tell him not to be such a tool – but we slowly become drawn to him as his life starts to improve even as we anticipate something going wrong and wait for the nasty stuff to start. When Zach loses everything he becomes desperate to get it all back at any cost – often at a terrible cost – and in time he embarks upon a course of action from which, we suspect, there can be no turning back. Punchy, unshowy and, in the end, rather nasty, i-Lived is in many ways an update of WW Jacobs’ The Monkey’s Paw for the computer generation (the relevance of the film’s title is a real facepalm moment) but Khalfoun’s nimble script and subtle direction, along with some decent performances from a game cast, keep the story pumping and the action moving at a fair old clip. What i-Lived lacks in genre originality it makes up in creeping dread and tension in a vaguely-cautionary tale which is sure to gain the app-robation of a horror crowd looking for something with a bit more wit and intelligence than many of the unapp-etising and app-alling phoned-in haunted house/mad slasher/found footage efforts which still app-ear to be the easy option for too many app-and-coming directors (ap-ologies).
i-LIVED / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: FRANCK KHALFOUN / STARRING: JEREMIAH WATKINS, BRIAN BREITER, SARAH POWER, THOMAS PAYTON / RELEASE DATE: JULY 11TH