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RATTER (2015)

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“Ratter” is a term referring to an animal used to catch rats, like a cat or dog. It is also an urban slang term that has multiple meanings. It can be used to describe someone, usually female, who has had many sexual partners, a woman’s lady parts, someone that pisses you off, or according to this film’s trailer, “a hacker who hijacks a computer or device to watch unsuspecting victims.” Obviously the latter applies here, as the film focuses on the cyber-stalking of the very pretty, girl-next-door Emma (Ashley Benson). Emma has just moved to NYC from Wisconsin for college. Unknown to the young woman, an anonymous stalker has hacked into her communication devices and watches her every move from her cellphone or laptop. Soon Emma begins to realize someone is invading her privacy as the mysterious individual enters every aspect of her life…including her apartment.

While it is short on any big scares, writer/director Branden Kramer’s thriller does get under your skin with it’s depiction of a sweet young girl being watched continuously in her every private moment. It plays very much like Eric Nicholas’  2006 Alone With Her, which featured a similar story of a young woman being stalked, initially without her knowledge. In Ratter, Kramer decides to tell his tale completely from Emma’s phone and laptop, much like the equally chilling 2013 The Denwhich warned of what lurks in chatrooms. Here the warning is of how easily traceable people have become with not being able to go anywhere or do anything without their faithful cellphone nearby. We watch the drama unfold completely from the stalker’s point of view. At first Emma is totally unaware of her secret admirer, as he watches her in the bathroom and while she’s sleeping, even snapping pictures of her in private moments with her own cellphone. It is creepy and it should be. The tension builds as this person starts to make his presence known through inappropriate e-mails, silent phone calls and harassing her, all the while framing Mike (Matt McGorry), a young man from school whom she’s just started seeing. Things get even creepier as we watch him enter Emma’s apartment while she’s out and even while she’s there asleep. Her privacy is completely stripped away and is invaded when she is at her most vulnerable. It’s all the more unnerving as it seems random, as if it could happen to anyone. Kramer makes an unsettling film and while it could have been a bit more intense, the slow simmering burn does work and we are quite uncomfortable with watching this girl being observed from her own devices and then slowly falling apart when she finds out, she’s being stalked. It’s spooky, more so because it happens.

The flick is far from perfect. There are some instances that are a bit cliché…like Emma getting a cat whose fate we know is sealed from the moment we meet it…and a plot point about an important message the stalker deletes concerning a crucial meeting, is just forgotten about. It also ends a bit abruptly, but it’s climax is effective as this obviously was leading to some sort of confrontation. Not a nailbiting thriller, but a subtly unnerving little movie about the negative side-effects of having everything we own connect through cyberspace and how easily our privacy can be invaded by someone with a little computer savvy and a demented mind.

While we do have a couple of supporting characters, the flick is mostly all on Ashley Benson’s shoulders and she carries it well. Benson is very good at quickly creating a likable character, so we care what happens to her from early on. Emma is smart and sweet and very pretty and since we like her, we cringe when the creepy invader is snapping pictures of her feet while she shaves her legs or simply as she sleeps unaware…all with her own laptop and cellphone. Benson then ups the intensity when Emma discovers she’s being stalked and we get a girl who starts to come apart with paranoia and fear.  Again, the film could have been a bit more intense, but Miss Benson gets a lot out of what she has to work with. Matt McGorry is likable as Mike, the boy Emma starts to date and her stalker starts to hate and Rebecca Naomi Jones is spunky as Emma’s friend Nicole from school. A very small cast and they are all good.

Overall, I liked this flick as an entertaining evening on the couch. The cyber-stalking thing isn’t really new anymore, nor is watching the proceedings from our subjects’ devices. The thought of someone watching us while we are unaware, is still unsettling, as is the thought of someone in our homes while we slumber…and Branden Kramer does use these creepy tropes well. Add in a solid leading lady and it’s an unnerving enough 80 minutes though never truly as frightening as the premise would suggest or we’d hoped it would be.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 laptops.

unfriended rating





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Spring Breakers is a hard movie to review since it’s also hard to really nail down what the whole point of it is. We get 4 girls, the virginal Christian good girl, Faith (Selena Gomez) and her three friends the restless and volatile Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brittany (Ashley Benson) and tag-along Cotty (Rachel Korine). The 4 are all bored with school and desperate to go to Florida for Spring Break but, don’t have the money. Brittany and Candy hatch a plan to rob a local restaurant to get the cash to go and while good girl Faith is horrified, she goes to Florida on the stolen money with them anyway. What follows is a quick decent into decadence and drugs which lands all 4 in jail. But, the girls are bailed out by a charismatic  gangster rapper and drug dealer named, Alien (James Franco) who continues their downward spiral into moral disintegration. I have no problem watching a story about characters getting pulled into a life of crime and moral decay but, there has to be some point by the time our story ends. Spring Breakers through all it’s candy-colored, neon cinematography and music video style editing doesn’t seem to make one. Was the film a warning against such a moral decline or the lure of such a decadent life of indulgence?… or was it glorifying and reveling in it? The film was never clear. Writer/ Director Harmony Korine (wrote Kids, directed Gummo) gives us an interesting start with 4 seemingly normal college girls bored with their existence and lured by the gold and glory of the ‘Gangsta’ lifestyle but, the tale doesn’t go anywhere. The film’s moral center, Faith, leaves and goes home when she gets frightened by Alien and his gang of thugs and thus leaves her friends without a voice of reason and therefor they keep willingly getting deeper into a life of crime robbing their fellow Spring Breakers with Alien and challenging a rival drug lord. Again this would be interesting if it made a point by the time the credits roll but, it doesn’t. There is no lesson learned or statement made. Our lovely ladies pay little or no price for their actions and seem little affected by those around them who do. It’s like drugs, robbery and murder are all just part of the Spring Break fun and that’s that. So if there was a point or moral to this music video style crime thriller, it is too well buried under all the shots of the neon bathed Miami streets and the endless scenes of our nubile stars drugging, rolling around in money and with each other, to see it. On a positive note the cast are all very good with Franco giving a really strong performance as the Scarface wannabe Alien and Hudgens and Benson conveying the frustration of bored youth and then the euphoria of their adrenaline charged release through their newfound ‘Gansta’ lifestyle. Gomez nails the good girl going along for the ride very well and does especially well at presenting her terror as things get too deep for her to tolerate. The week link is Korine’s Cotty who seems to take a back seat to a lot of the action till a close call sends her home too. Her character was almost not needed as she seems to disappear from time to time to let Hudgens, Benson and Franco take center stage. Being director Harmony Korine’s wife, her role seems to be exactly that, of giving the wife a role in the film that doesn’t require her to actually get involved in the debauchery. All in all, I found Spring Breakers interesting and the photography of it’s beautiful leading ladies quite alluring but, it would have been a much better movie had there been an actual point to all that transpires. Having seen and enjoyed Gummo I do find Harmony Korine’s work interesting and he is not a conventional filmmaker but, even a maverick has to have a purpose.

2 and 1/2 naughty neon nymphs!

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