‘Come on, who sends a suicide note by text?’
Some stories need to be retold every generation or so – because underlying attitudes don’t change even as technology and social mores do. This has an explicit reference to Fatal Attraction, though it’s closer in premise to Play Misty for Me, and has a bright, smart, funny, attractive young-ish guy who hooks up for one-night stands using a dating app (‘Head Over Heels’) finding his life torn apart when one of the women won’t leave him alone. Directed and written by David Chirchirillo, who co-wrote Cheap Thrills, it’s got a few extra stings in its tail than expected but mostly goes over old ground in satisfying fashion.
Harris (Jack Cutmore-Scott), an ad industry creative, has an enviable lifestyle … until he hooks up with Riley (Lili Simmons), who leapfrogs from one night of passion to an assumption that she’s now his girlfriend, and takes rejection very badly. Turning off his phone charger means he misses a wake-up alarm and an important pitch meeting, but also doesn’t get the increasingly annoyed calls from his work. And then things get even darker, with threats of violence, wavering between suicide and murder. Given that the initial contact is made via an impersonal app, it’s appropriate that the follow-up also comes via text, with an escalating series of pranks that land Harris in trouble at work – where his female boss (Noureen DeWulf) seems to be happy to find any excuse to let Harris go – and with the cops. First, the firm’s Twitter feed – which he is responsible for – gets hacked, and then a tipoff leads the police to seize his laptop, which has mysteriously gained a cache of child porn. The all-round immaturity of the exec’s lifestyle extends beyond his dating habits to his online gaming gotchas, which brings in another plot thread that winds around him even as he tries to get even with Lili by catfishing her in an attempt to get his life back by forcing her to admit what she’s done to him.
Cutmore-Scott and Simmons are both good as essentially shallow characters – the aggrieved woman genuinely is presumptuous and doesn’t understand boundaries, even if the guy is the bigger jerk and deserves the bigger downfall. Cutmore-Scott is an appealing scoundrel, which means we aren’t instantly on Lili’s side – a less likeable lead actor would make for a nastier watch – but the character gets more extreme the more he’s pressured, and we see how easily a breezily charming lack of ethics can turn into whining aggression. The reversals of the last act work in a Tales of the Unexpected sort of way, though a little focus is lost on Lili’s character as her victim gets the upper hand and we get hints that there’s a whole side to the story we’ve missed. With familiar contemporary FrightFest faces Trent Haaga (68 Kill), Brandon Scott (Mindhack) and Chase Williamson (Sequence Break) in bit roles.