January 22, 2018 Like Me (Movie Review)
Is it enough to have people like you, or do they have to literally “Like” you and your selfies and videos? Is there life beyond internet popularity anymore? These debates are at the center of Like Me, an intriguing new Horror/Thriller from the good folks at Dogfish Pictures and Glass Eye Pix, which arrives to select theatres on Friday, January 26, 2018 via Kino Lorber.
Like Me is the story of petite pixie Kiya (Addison Timlin: Odd Thomas 2013, Fallen 2016), a curious loner and self-proclaimed good listener who is traveling from motel to motel in her old-school, disheveled Cutlass Salon in search of adventure. In fact, the particular brand of mayhem that she seeks is that which she can broadcast to the world via social media. Donning a geometric face mask worthy of the next Hollywood Undead video, she begins her bizarre travels in a random convenience store where she terrorizes a random clerk (Jeremy Gardner: The Battery 2012, Tex Montana Will Survive! 2015) with a gun, then uploads an iPhone-shot video for the world to imbibe.
As her “Likes” increase and the vlog-o-sphere goes wild, Kiya develops a bit of an archnemesis in the emphatically-opinionated vlogger Burt Walden (Ian Nelson: The Hunger Games 2012, The Boy Next Door 2015). As if to raise a loving middle finger to her followers, Kiya befriends a bum named Henry (Stuart Rudin: The Silence of the Lambs 1991, Little Nicky 2000), and the pair go for pancakes. While the meeting is bizarre, it ends rather uneventfully and Kiya moves on to her next motel hell where she tangoes with the middle-aged and seemingly meek Marshall (Larry Fessenden: Habit 1995, Stake Land 2010). Their encounter will lead to video gold for Kiya, and a strange friendship that provides the bulk of the film’s material.
Clocking in at 84 minutes in-length, Like Me is a debut for Writer/Director Robert Mockler. While the film is billed as a “psychedelic Horror Thriller,” it leans more heavily on the Thriller genre than anything Horror. Which is not to say that there is nothing dark or haunting here because the content of the film is peppered with drug use and violence, and should, therefore, be considered a TV-MA/R offering.
The cast here is a small group that measures just five key individuals, and each actor does a superb job in their complex roles. As the perplexing young Kiya, Timlin is superb at moving the plot along without ever stammering or stumbling in her figurative big boots. She beautifully depicts the contradictory nature of so many of today’s youth: wanting to, at once, heal the wounds of the disenfranchised while holding a gun to the head of others; tender with her pet rat, but flippant over another human-being’s welfare.
Though their roles are fairly incidental, both Gardner and Rudin are excellent in their abilities to portray their unique characters and lend a believability to the entire production. Fessenden, as Marshall, is just as brilliant as Timlin, offering up a stunning performance of an oddly-conflicted, middle-aged motel owner who is, at times, candid and sincere and, in other moments, somewhat disturbed. Similarly, Nelson, as the infuriating and yet oddly insightful Walden, is wonderful, giving life to a polarizing vlogger who you will love to hate.
Like Me is a tale deeply embedded in our modern age and, while the subject matter is mature, this is a film that is aimed at the generation who communicate in GIFs and aspire to be nothing more than YouTube vloggers. The overall vibe here is that of a cerebral stoner art flick, if you will: a kind of delicious blend of fine art film and film school project. In fact, Like Me is even visually bizarre and awkward at times, with colors processed in such a way as to create a hyper-reality that could exist only in the online world. Furthermore, the scene transitions are oft overlaid, creating a real-life double-exposure that moves the plot from place-to-place in visual metaphors. In short, Like Me is shot like a music video with psychedelic lighting and vibrant colors that pop, creating an arresting visual presence that demands attention.
If a fine art student met a film school student and they dropped acid while fornicating, they would likely birth something along the lines of Like Me. A vibrant, technicolor blend of lust and gluttony, this is a film that explores the idea of chasing a life without regrets, despite living for the attention of others. The fake vlog response videos are spot-on throughout, perfectly embodying the contradictory and ridiculous nature of online life and the utter impossibility of living for yourself while being controlled by others.
Above all else, Like Me is a social commentary aimed at the vapid and narcissistic individuals who seem to chase a dopamine rush online while meticulously documenting the crumbling of our society like apes with cameras. Understanding that there is vast irony in naming the wannabe philosopher Walden, CrypticRock give Like Me 4 of 5 stars.