When marketing a horror movie, it never hurts to be creative. Take, for example, Cloverfield. The trailer for Cloverfield was first shown before 2007’s Transformers without hitting any horror fans’ radars prior to its showing. It didn’t even show the title of the movie. It merely flashed “1-18-08” at the end. Once you googled that phrase, you were led into a viral game that is now famous for its marketing ploy. People still talk about it today. Producer JJ Abrams tried to mimic this viral marketing for Super 8 but it just never reached the same peak. Fear Clinic writer/producer Aaron Drane talked about this when I visited the set. To stand out in today’s horror market, you have to be creative to get attention.
The new horror movie I-Lived just hit DVD Tuesday. I-Lived follows Josh (Jeremiah Watkins), a young man trying to better himself through a new app he’s asked to review. What sets I-Lived apart from other recent horror offerings is that you can download an app (of the same name) that syncs with the movie for a second screen experience. The movie itself is a slow burn horror film. Josh is quite likable (and quite annoying). But, when a majority of his introspection is through gazes and glares and most of his instructions come through text messages, having my phone beep and ring while watching the movie greatly increased the viewing pleasure of this. Cinematically, I-Lived is more than competent. The story is pretty straight forward but it has a lot of filler.
Josh is a budding app reviewer. His Pewdiepie persona have garnered him over 300 subscribers on YouTube. As a Stanford graduate, he is quite intelligent but a recent breakup has him spinning his wheels in this world. All of that changes when he reviews the app I-Lived. The app promises that it can help Josh achieve what he wants…and doesn’t. His first test is a failure, but when Josh is out at a bar shortly thereafter, it uses his GPS in order to locate him and inspire him to hit on the beauty sitting at the bar (Sarah Power). When his attempt works in landing her, he gives the app a second chance and things begin progressing well for him. However, instructions of “Do something nice for 6 people” are soon replaced with “Do something your parents won’t approve of” and then escalates from there. As Josh is pushed through each moral boundary, he begins to lose himself and realize that there may be something supernatural to this program.
I-Lived is meant to be a slow burn horror movie that banks that we will find its main character charming enough to root for him. At times, he is. Watkins can be quite annoying as a reviewer, but his character of Josh can be outstanding at times as well. (To be fair, my boys are constantly watching StampyLongNose and DanTDM so I’m jaded on video reviewers.) There are some truly funny sketches here though. When Josh is asked to do something nice for 6 people, he holds a set of doors open all day until security chases him away. Another attempt has him giving candy to kids at a playground. These moments emit chuckles amid his over exaggerated facial expressions and not-so-fancy editing. But, as a person, Josh is interesting. His mother is dying of cancer and he’s just gone through a breakup. He’s dying inside and the app I-Lived provides a spark to his life that he sorely misses. Of course, it uses this spark to torture the man as well.
The issue with I-Lived is that it can be very good one moment, and ho-hum the next. It begins to drag towards the middle, and the climax leaves the film to march off to its inevitable finale. While the app I-Lived plays a shell game with Josh, the movie I-Lived tries to with us. Unfortunately, we’re not Josh and it’s pretty obvious where we’re following Josh to. A very similar concept (but different technology) was done in the 1980s with 976-Evil. In that film, we not only see Hoax’s fall from graces, but we are entertained with the special effects aftermath. Starry Eyes was good, but the icing on the cake was her giving into the powers that be and what it meant for her and her friends. I-Lived goes a different direction and leaves Josh empty as a result of his actions. While probably more realistic than the other two films I mentioned, it also leaves the film turning into a giant blank faced montage as it wraps up.
The app for I-Lived does try to bring you into the movie when your interest wains. It does a pretty good job at it as well. It beeps when Josh’s phone beeps. It shows you incoming calls and turns on your flashlight when he loses power. Additional footage is shown exclusively on the app as well. My favorite scene was when Josh and Greta are dancing in his living room. The camera stays at their face level but the app shows their feet on floor. I got a chuckle out of being able to complete the scene through the use of two pieces of technology.
More horror movies need to think outside the box like I-Lived did. The app is a wonderful addition to the movie. Without it, the movie is ok. It’s worth a watch. You root for and you hate Josh. That’s pretty effective movie making. However, the payoff is small. What sets this movie apart is the creativity in how it takes us from point A to point B in its story, and how they brought the horror off the screen to make it a little more personal to me.