Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

"What distinguishes #Horror from other pictures of the genre, is the sly way Subkoff balances the levels of fright - where it is fun and where it is not."

The sense of belonging, triggered - while dancing, laughing, or swimming in synchronised formation - can be a most potent drug. The delicious shivers running down your spine when you feel completely safe and share a scary story with a friend, are as much part of #Horror as the scarring dynamics that age groups, younger and younger, tend to inflict upon each other.

What it looks like to be included and be bullied at the same time, is finely explored in the direction of six 12-year-old girls (Sadie Seelert, Haley Murphy, Bridget McGarry, Blue Lindeberg, Mina Sundwall, Emma Adler) congregating for a sleepover. To top it all off - and not as a starting point, which makes all the difference - the dynamics of cruelty today are no longer contained to a neighborhood but are out there for all the world to judge online.

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Chloë Sevigny (Alex Cox), initially seen in a kimono, sprouting kite-like flowers made from maps, portrays the host girl Sofia's (McGarry) mother and Timothy Hutton (Dr White) the intense father of another. A giant, medium-hard-boiled-egg pulsates on the wall. A glasshouse filled with artworks, is more than merely backdrop in Tara Subkoff's piercing #Horror.

She goes for the unsettling real, where Debussy's Clair de Lune and murderous fantasies can be enjoyed side by side, because more than anything, the film's heart is in the right place. The fogged windows of a red Ferrari, parked in the snowy forests of Connecticut, at first obscure what is happening inside. Sex or crime or both?

The girls' disguises include vintage furs in various shades of brandy, silky slips, mother's jewels, grotesque face masks (conceived by Urs Fischer) and swimsuits in the perfect ashen hue that could have been created by Orry-Kelly for a Busby Berkeley party. The production design, brilliantly executed by Tara and Daniel Subkoff, makes the house feel like an actual home where the gaggle of kids can slip and slide up and down the modernist stairs in socks and ignore the impressive art collection as supremely irrelevant to their concerns.

It is also a transparent stand-in for what you wish it to be - it might be a Teutonic castle of bloody blossoms or the abandoned mansion at the corner, where spirits dwell and the past never ends. Costumes, part Grey Gardens, part Eighties socialites, part school uniform, are worn with a scary little privileged monster grin. The tropes of the horror genre are combined with a strong message about cyberbullying, without ever betraying the playful 12-year-old girl, hidden behind the functioning façade of many an adult.

Natasha Lyonne, Lydia Hearst, Balthazar Getty, Taryn Manning, Stella Schnabel and Annabelle Dexter-Jones form a strong ensemble of grown-ups who do very little to ease the children's troubles because they are so utterly engulfed in their own. Hutton's performance as a father-turned-shark takes your breath away. During a particularly loaded moment with him and Sevigny, who is a great sparring partner, the movie trembles above the abyss of a passion that goes beyond the tweens' grasp.

What distinguishes #Horror from other pictures of the genre, is the sly way Subkoff balances the levels of fright - where it is fun and where it is not. The director told me at the premiere in New York that she herself was bullied as a 12-year-old. When the things from the past that haunt are on the internet, here in a social media video game hybrid designed by Team Gallery artist Tabor Robak, and not only in the minds of the people experiencing them, the horror reaches another level.

Fun and games, playing dress up, synchronised water ballet, cupcakes and a taste of the grown-ups' liquor are only the beginning of what is "submitted" to the deadly online pool - thirsty for blood.

Reviewed on: 27 Nov 2015
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A moment of cyberbullying turns into a night of insanity for a group of schoolgirls.


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