Years after having her newborn child stolen from her, Sam searches a world infested with infected users from the Social Redroom website. After befriending a young girl named Bean, Sam is captured and locked in a facility dedicated to finding a cure for the Redroom Virus. Trapped and tortured, Sam tries to escape the facility before an impending update on the Redroom site hits 100% and unleashed its final phase of attack.
Given Antisocial’s cliff-hanger ending it was only a question of time before Sam would return brandishing her axe to dispatch as many Redroom users as humanly possible. At its base, Antisocial 2 sticks to the original concept of internet junkies succumbing to an online zombie virus but this time the story shifts very far left-field to distance itself from the overcrowded zombie slaughterfest subgenre. In doing so it focuses more on the medical ramifications of the virus and also on family bonds in these times of terror, the latter of which provides the film with much more of an emotional punch.
The Social Redroom – again serving as an unerring apologue of the world’s wanton addiction to social media – is still fully operative, only this time an update expected to transform all remaining survivors into users is 79% installed and climbing.
The film kicks-off at a hasty pace, promising quite the rollercoaster ride as Sam roams the user-infested wasteland with her newborn child snatched from her at birth. Living in the boot of a car and keeping her head down from hordes of users she eventually crosses paths with a young girl named Bean (Josette Halpert) and the two of them tough it out in an unnerving environment which is authentically evoked by Calahan’s direction and co-writer/DP Jeff Maher’s avid cinematic eye. Calahan has made some giant strides since the original and most of his cast manage to follow pace: Mylett lends plenty of conviction to her role, and it’s a novel touch to see her cutthroat character with this added maternal facet. Accordingly, she shares some emotionally intense moments with her son Jacob (Samuel Faraci) and new sidekick, Bean. Whilst Mylett is the film’s protagonist, it’s Halpert who’s best in show here, putting in a rousing performance as she finds herself torn between going with her gut to save her friends (and the world) or remaining faithful to her increasingly uncompromising father, Max (Stephen Bogaert). Sadly, Bogaert’s unscrewed scientist performance is a tad stilted and I couldn’t help but feel it lacked the flagrance that the character really required. Kudos must also go to the youngest member of the cast, Faraci. Despite his scant screen time, he dominates his scenes with an absolutely harrowing performance as Sam’s “preternatural” son.
I’m sure those of you who have seen the original film will vividly recall a certain power tool moment and, whilst nothing quite reaches those levels of tension in the sequel, you can certainly tell there was some extra petty cash on hand as the special effects are nothing to be sniffed at and the locations really give the film the feeling of a much larger scope than you would expect from an independent horror film. Another highlight of the original film was Steph Copeland’s stainless soundtrack and she rises to the occasion once again blending eerie ivory-tinkling, orchestral pangs, trippy beats and scuzzy sampling, all perfectly attuned to the film’s subject matter. Black Fawn Films really couldn’t have joined forces with a better musician and you’d be wise to check out her debut album Public Panic.
My only gripe with the film is that whilst virtually all its constituent parts can be considered an upgrade compared to the original, Calahan’s decision to go so far left-field comes at a bit of a price. When we get taken underground to the lab setting the cookie starts to crumble. There was certainly a huge amount of potential there as Max’s experiments on his human lab rats swiftly hurtle out of control and the impending virus update teeters towards the 100% installation mark but, rather than an upping of the ante, the plot and pacing gets a bit bogged down and I felt a little short-changed compared to the mayhem Calahan subjected us to the first time round. Nonetheless, the film provides plenty of tension and a pretty redeeming resolution, even if it felt somewhat more restrained than I was anticipating.
Provided you aren’t going in expecting something akin to 28 Days Later or The Walking Dead then you will most likely get a kick out of this one. The film’s narrative once again provides a deep-cutting commentary on the perils of social media and, despite the odd glitch here and there, generally stands up as a worthy sequel. And if you do enjoy the film be sure to tweet about it and share it with all your friends on Facebook…
Words: Howard Gorman (@HowardGorman)