Antisocial (2013)

This virus kills

Writers: Chad Archibald, Cody Calaha
Director: Cody Calaha

Antisocial is one of a number of recent attempts to fuse Western horror with 21st century technology. Unlike the subtle menace of J Horror this tends to be a rough wooing – which in the case of Antisocial works surprisingly well.

The story revolves around a group of students gathering for a New Year’s Eve party. As with most young people today they spend much of their time on their mobiles and laptops. In particular there’s a site called the SocialRedroom – essentially a Facebook style social hub with live video chat. But it seems that ‘something’ has got into the Redroom and is beginning to infect users, turning them into crazed psychopaths. Our group ends up barricaded in the house as the world collapses.

Apart from the use of social networking as a trigger it’s not original, but it is well done. An initial ‘teaser’ sequence usually suggests a very slow first act, but in this case the action gets going quickly and the pace holds up nicely. There’s a lot of tension and a degree of paranoia. And one thing that gets a really big thumbs up from me is that the characters actually have brains – and not in the zombie sense!

There are some gory moments, but despite the publicity stills this isn’t a slasher; Calahan’s direction is a nicely judged balance between tension and shock. This is enhanced by excellent music from Steph Copeland which does a great job of supporting the atmosphere without overwhelming it.

The normalisation of internet activity into the lives of young people is effective, unlike so many modern horror films where the first thing the writer does is find a reason for communications no longer working! Ideas such as internet addiction and social assimilation are touched on but not really explored – this isn’t a Romero style social commentary. Internet video and chat is used well without the excessive disassociation found in Diary of the Dead (2007).

Where Antisocial really falls down hard is the science. Now I don’t expect perfect science in a horror film but I do expect some degree of believability. Antisocial has more flaws in the science than I can count. This is especially telling for a film built around technology – the explanation for the Red Room virus is ridiculous on numerous levels. Still, the bad science does at least provide for a possible cure which in turn creates a ridiculous but very enjoyable final act.

And, another big plus, the final scene is really well handled and the film ends at just the right point.

So Antisocial is a piece of teen nonsense that uses bad science to try to force the square peg of social networking into the round hole of traditional Western teen horror. Yet despite that it works really well. Yes it’s nonsense, but it’s extremely well made, well paced and thoroughly enjoyable nonsense.