Naughty schoolgirls or feet, we all have a ‘thing’. But what happens when a little kink crosses the line into life and death? Exploring this eerie idea, the Horror-Thriller Don’t Click arrives to select theaters and On Demand as of Friday, December 11, 2020 thanks to Gravitas Ventures.
Based on the 2017 short film of the same name, Director G-Hey Kim (Don’t Click short 2017) makes her feature-length debut with Don’t Click, which was written by Courtney Ellum. Starring Valter Skarsgård (Svartsjön series, Lords of Chaos 2018) and Mark Koufous as best friends-slash-roommates, the story flips between the past and an unsettling present to deliver its viewers a strong message.
In the story, Josh (Skarsgård) is a fairly stereotypical college student who wants to imbibe all things social (and illicit) rather than focus on his studies, though his bestie Zane (Koufos) is far more reserved. The truth of his social withdrawal, however, is that he’s spending time with a box of Kleenex and a torture/snuff website.
His roommate chooses to conveniently ignore this information until, one night, he returns home to the apartment to discover Zane missing and his laptop screen flashing static like a beacon. It’s not long before he finds himself awakening in a dank cellar, groggy and with no memory as to how he came to be trapped. What’s worse, a dangerous entity wants to play a little game with him.
Combining elements of the Saw franchise with the modern commentary of recent offerings such as 2019’s Do Not Reply, Don’t Click weaves a disturbing warning into its Horror-Thriller script. At 77 minutes, it might weigh in on the short side, but it moves at a slow but steady pace as it switches between the best friends’ present life or death conundrum and the past that brought them there.
While, thematically, there’s an idea of revenge—or the predator becoming the prey—the movie never revels in its crimson filth. Whereas torture porn such as Eli Roth’s Hostel (2006), or the aforementioned Saw flicks, tend to make their gruesome content joyously fulfilling for sadistic Horror fiends, the end goal here is quite the opposite: you are meant to walk away disturbed and disgusted.
Certainly this reaction is not hard to achieve given the material. Zane’s choice of pornographic material masquerades as BDSM, but instead it’s non-consensual torture and snuff; there is nothing sexy about it at all. The kidnapped ladies are clearly screaming in fear and agony, which makes this a film that is absolutely not meant for anyone who is triggered by abuse. The misogyny of the BeatASlut website is obvious, as none of the so-called “sluts” are ever men, offering a harsh commentary on pornography if you care to travel that avenue of thought.
Otherwise, the varying commentaries and ideas embedded throughout Don’t Click have all been frequent topics of discussion in many forms of art and media, from the moral responsibility of bystanders to what it means to be a good person—the latter being a strong theme in the recent Amulet (2020). Despite these debates being nothing new, Kim and Ellum take a feminist stance, painting their bleak topic in an unnerving manner, one that leaves its audience feeling uncomfortable upon its conclusion.
Carrying the bulk of the story on their shoulders, Skarsgård and Koufous, who makes his acting debut in the film, deliver in their roles. As the origin of the trouble, Koufos’ Zane is a loner who speaks little and avoids social interactions. This leaves the actor to largely serve as a victim, and an unsympathetic one at that, although he does a great job of never coming across as blatantly skeevy. Instead, Koufos perfectly portrays the idea that it’s the quiet ones you have to look out for.
His co-star, Skarsgård, drives the majority of the plot as Josh. From his interactions with classmate Shannon (May Grehan: Roommates 2017, Bait and Switch short 2018) and the dead Maya (Catherine Howard: Please Subscribe short 2019, Isthmus 2021), we see that he is an average twentysomething, as well. There’s a jovial nature to his interactions with women, and he tries hard to be a good friend to Zane. Though viewers should ask themselves what it means to be a good, respectful person—Is it turning a blind eye on a friend’s illegal proclivities or does a strong moral being step in and say something, even if it’s a difficult thing to do?
This food for thought, coupled with a visual mimicking of video games and virtual reality experiences, creates a film that travels through territory that is apt to make Jigsaw cringe. Toying with issues of control, morality, and brutality as kink, this is a film that is more substance over actual moviegoing enjoyment. Watchable, if slow, Don’t Click is not meant to be a feel-good time at the theater, but rather to unnerve, disturb and leave viewers uncomfortable. For this, Cryptic Rock gives Don’t Click 3.5 of 5 stars.