One of the highlights of FrightFest 2019 has been Death Of A Vlogger – and here’s our review.
Director: Graham Hughes
Cast: Graham Hughes, Annabel Logan, Paddy Kondracki, Joma West
Release Date: TBC
Reviewer: Matt Edwards
“Do you even know what’s real and what’s not anymore?”
“It’s on camera.”
“That doesn’t mean anything.”
Exploding a building costs an absolute fortune. Creating an entire CG world is jaw droppingly expensive. It takes a hell of a bank account to pay the salaries of big-name actors. For smaller films with modest budgets, competing with blockbuster movies can feel like a rigged game. Innovation and invention, though, are things that you can do cheaply. What a difference they can make.
In Death Of A Vlogger, Graham is recording one of his regular web shows, just him talking to the camera, when something weird happens. A cup moves on its own. Not only is Graham being haunted, but the world can see it happen in all but real time. But do people really believe what they see on the internet anymore? Because if they think you’re pulling a hoax, they might not be too happy about it.
In some of its most effective scenes, Death Of A Vlogger is a convincing and tense ghost film. But, rather than being a straight spookshow playing you for your reactions (not that we don’t love those), it’s really a story about media manipulation and the real people that exist in the middle of every online event. It’s a bit like Paranormal Activity has been filtered through Jon Ronson.
Because filmmaker Hughes is an accomplished vlogger, he’s able to make this world look very authentic, which is great. The haunting vlogs feel so real at times that it seems likely that there’s a Cannibal Holocaust, Blair Witch Project ‘is this actually real?’ event film due to come out of this format in the near future. Vlogging also provides a ‘why are they still filming?’ explanation that will have low budget horror filmmakers wringing their hands.
Death Of A Vlogger keeps you on your toes with its twisty storytelling. It isn’t structured in a particularly recognisable way and therefore becomes difficult to predict, which is just so much fun. It perhaps leans into this a little too much, taking a turn too many for its own good by the time it reaches the end.
Ultimately, the point of these plot twists is to make you question what you can believe, even when it’s something you’ve seen. That this film is coming to screens so close to the deep fake trend is no coincidence. Being media savvy and understanding that we can’t necessarily believe what we see any more is becoming an increasing and difficult truth of the online world. It’s exciting to see it explored in such a modern, thoughtful and creative way.
There’s a similarly creative approach to cinematography. Hughes applies technologies that have been developed to meet the needs of vloggers to filmmaking. As a result, we get one of the best séance sequences I’ve ever seen.
Death Of A Vlogger is an innovative, provocative and entertaining portrait of life in the digital world.