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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

‘#chadgetstheaxe’ Review – Screenlife Horror-Comedy Is a Fun Skewering of Social Media Stardom

Horror’s technological evolution into Screenlife nightmares like Spree or Deadstream continues with Travis Bible’s #chadgetstheaxe, the latest skewer-happy examination of dangerous social media obsessions. It’s becoming a more challenging subgenre that requires intense authenticity in performances and digital details, especially since actual YouTubers are starting to become parodies of themselves. Bible and co-writer Kemerton Hargrove key into Logan Paul or Shane Dawson-type online personalities and their willingness to — for example — monetize videos that feature actual dead bodies. The attraction of infinite adoration from fanbases is too much for some to ignore, and #chadgetstheaxe is a fun-filled, sneaky-creepy reminder that sometimes internet superstardom isn’t worth the likes or attention.

The film starts by centering on “#Spicy” Steve (Michael Bonini), a likable-enough vlogger who teams up with mega-popular prankster Chad Ryan (Spencer Harrison Levin) for the ultimate video. Steve wants to prove he’s not a coward to the “Spice Squad” (his viewership), so he organizes an influencer getaway to the possibly haunted Devil’s Manor. Beauty blogger Jennifer (Taneisha Figueroa) and attached-to-the-hip boyfriend Spencer (Cameron Vitosh) are along for the ride, who will also stream their experience. Stories of satanic rituals, mass murders, and cult activity aren’t enough to keep the hyped-up social media celebs away — I think you know what happens next.

Bible doesn’t waste time shipping his doomed click-chasers to Devil’s Manor and keeps #chadgetstheaxe moving at a steady clip. There’s no mystery about what’s happening — morons who believe in exploiting horrific events become the subject of said exploitation. It’s the über-prominent Deadstream model — prior used, but rarely as well — where desperate influencers ignore realistic consequences because their precious follower counts demand more provocative, more outrageous, and more unforgettable content. Who doesn’t love to watch obnoxious “creators” f$ck around and find out in real-time? Bible understands the appeal of these livestream marathons hinging on the worst of the worst online personalities and doesn’t waste time delivering the goods.

Characters cover the bases of most YouTuber stereotypes, from the conflicted Steve — who acknowledges some semblance of a guilty conscience — to primetime douchebag Chad, done immense justice by Spencer Harrison Levin’s performance as an insensitive jokester you love to hate. Michael Bonini finds sympathetic ground as an online star who doesn’t fully appreciate how others appease their fans, which contrasts nicely against Levin’s disgusting representation of celebrity status at any cost. Then you’ve got Jennifer and Spencer, who do the right thing early by leaving — until one caves and turns them back to Devil’s Manor because the opportunity is too unmissable. Everyone’s selling their parts like we’ve seen on livestreams when scrolling through TikTok or Instagram, and peacocking often to embrace satirical commentary that shows how twisted their mentalities can become.

Horror elements are rougher around the edges, given the lower-budget nature of #chadgetstheaxe. Legend tells of William Burrows and his murder cabin, which presents a hunt-and-stalk scenario where the masked killer swings an axe at fleeing idiots. There are a few gnarly gore effects toward the end but scares themselves never exceed expectations. Bible’s better at finding the humor in scenarios like when Chad spies a setup and foolishly thinks it’s Steve versus the outright horror of a finale that’s reminiscent of yet lesser than Hell House LLC or Radio Silence’s V/H/S segment. It functions on basic haunted architecture values and still ultimately delivers, but don’t expect to cower in fear during roadside standoffs or underwater phone camera glimpses. Livestream effects like fake social media platform LiveLife, comments on the screen, and scrolling between different smartphone apps are always a better look than the frights that await inside Devil’s Manor.

#chadgetstheaxe earns a recommendation for its ability to slice into the unsettling psychological motivations behind your favorite YouTubers while delivering enough cloaked satanic spookiness to appease the horror side of this Screenlife horror-comedy. The way characters interact — with one another or their opinionated viewers via live chats — cruelly exposes the sometimes toxic relationship between audience and creator rather well. Deadstream is unquestionably more accomplished, but #chadgetstheaxe gets by feeling like a scrappy little sibling. Travis Bible understands how to manipulate digital hellscapes to his advantage in ways that never feel like cheating, which brings a genuine atmosphere to this share-seeking blast of karmic justice. More movies should be this gleeful about showing people who suck getting what they deserve.

#chadgetstheaxe was screened at the Unnamed Footage Festival 2023.

The post ‘#chadgetstheaxe’ Review – Screenlife Horror-Comedy Is a Fun Skewering of Social Media Stardom appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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