It’s New Year’s Eve, and Sam (Michelle Mylett) has just been dumped by her boyfriend. Within minutes of this heartbreaking event, the news of the breakup is all over the internet’s most popular social site, The Social RedRoom, which causes Sam to delete her profile after seeing a barrage of insensitive comments. Despite the breakup weighing heavily on her – for more reasons than the viewer is initially privy to – Sam begrudgingly accepts an invitation by her best friend Mark (Cody Thompson) to go to a New Year’s Eve party. As Sam and a small group of friends celebrate the birth of a New Year, the evening takes a frightening turn when a worldwide viral outbreak hits, leaving Sam and her friends trapped and fighting for their lives as they try to find answers as to what is causing this horrifying pandemic.
Directed by Cody Calahan (who also co-wrote with Chad Archibald), Antisocial is an independent Canadian horror film that attempts to bring something a little new to the zombie sub-genre, in that it uses the idea of social media being the actual cause of the outbreak. Specifically The Social RedRoom, which is basically a Facebook style social site that all the kids seem to be completely obsessed with. The idea of social media plays a major role into Antisocial, even going as far as introducing the five main characters by giving the viewer an overview of their profile on The Social RedRoom. This consists of quick glimpses of videos, photos and anything else you might see on a person’s Facebook profile.
Right from the get go it's quite apparent that there's a message the filmmakers are trying to get across with Antisocial; a message that is clearly focused on the dangers of social media for teenagers in the socially driven modern world we live in. For example, cyber bullying is brought up numerous times early in the film, and Sam even makes reference to the fact that she hates how people will say things online about her that they wouldn’t say to her face, something that speaks to the trolling ways of the internet.
Once it becomes apparent to the characters that an epidemic is unfolding, Antisocial goes on to follow the typical Night of the Living Dead structure, as the teens board themselves up in the house and try to survive the “zombie” outbreak. As the night rolls on, the teenagers must deal with a variety of conflicts, especially as some of these characters begin to show signs of being infected by the disease. During this time, the characters also attempt to learn the cause of the plague, eventually coming to the conclusion that it is a direct result of using the very social network that they are all obsessed with.
As previously mentioned, the filmmakers are trying to get across a very specific message with Antisocial, and by actually having a social site be the catalyst for a catastrophic event is about as heavy-handed an approach as it gets. What I would glean from this is that the Internet – specifically social media – is a disease; It’s a poison that destroys the minds of our youth, turning them into mindless zombies without the ability to function and think on their own. In all honesty, it's a valid message – to an extent. I think the issue I might have with this message is the fact that it places the burden solely on teenagers. To say that constantly being connected can be unhealthy for the human race is a valid and fair point to make. It’s even an interesting idea for a zombie/infection film. However, Antisocial never seems to acknowledge the fact that adults are nearly as abusive of social media as teenagers are.
Now, naturally it might be more difficult to get a teenager’s attention; it might seem as if they are the ones who simply cannot put their phone away for a moment to focus on anything other than keeping up with their friends. But the reality of the matter is that has always been the case with teens. Most teenagers are always distracted, and that has been the case since, well, probably the beginning of time. It’s part of what makes them teenagers. When I was a teenager, all I wanted to do was talk on the phone or hangout with my friends. Nowadays teenagers simply have different social options, not different habits.
What’s actually somewhat ironic about Antisocial is the fact that this film is, for all intents and purposes, targeting Facebook. Facebook is clearly the king of social media; however, over the past few years, Facebook has been and continues to be slowly abandoned by the younger crowd in favor of social sites such as Instagram and SnapChat. Even more ironic is the fact that teenagers are using Facebook less and less while older people are flocking to it and using it more. In fact, the idea that parents and, even worse, grandparents are on Facebook – sending out invitations to play Candy Crush Saga and commenting on their grandchildren’s drunken photos – is a huge reason why they are abandoning Facebook.
Despite my qualms with its slightly misguided message, I will, at the very least, commend the effort put forth. Antisocial is not a tongue-in-cheek splatter fest; it's not self-referential; it's not over the top and goofy. In fact, the film takes itself seriously and there is substance, and I appreciate that, especially from a low-budget horror film that focuses on teenage characters.