In this being the digital age we have everything at our fingertips: face to face conversations from across the globe, items that can purchased instantly, immediate home surveillance and it even helps us in the dating world. The problem with technology is people get too comfortable with this ease of access; we now get into cars with strangers and stay in other’s homes without giving it a second thought. Technology has made us more prone with the veil of still being secure shrouding our vision. One aspect that is increasingly terrifying is the ease that people would opt to meet a stranger with little or no knowledge of who they are. This was the idea expanded upon by both writers/directors Daniel and Walter Woltosz in their film Do Not Reply.
The film follows young teenager Chelsea, played by Amanda Arcuri (Party of Five), who feels shut out by not only her best friend who starts dating but even by her own family. Seeking belonging elsewhere Chelsea starts talking to someone via a dating app and after a month decides to go meet him. Of course this being a tale of caution Chelsea is drugged and kidnapped by her date Brad, played by Jackson Rathbone (The Twilight Saga). The concept is quite terrifying as Brad takes his victims and situates them into a pseudo-dollhouse environment with each having their hair dyed blonde and forced to wear cheerleading outfits while each going under the name Sadie. Some of Brad’s victims have even fallen into Stockholm syndrome, where they believe they are in love with their captor. The twist to this deranged living arrangement is that Brad has a fetish to kill each girl while utilizing a virtual reality camera helmet to record his murders. In essence this sounds like an interesting concept exploring dating apps, teenager angst, and the dangers of social technology.
As important a message this is to pass onto young teens the execution falls short. Rathbone plays Brad with a sleazy, domineering, vicious tone but at the same time feels like a paint by numbers villain motivated by mommy issues and a weird sexual obsession with his step sister. I feel the film would have played better had Brad’s presence not been as heavy throughout as I feel the villain should have been more mysterious and lightly scattered. The addition of other girls was fine but I felt them falling in love with Brad was a bit of a stretch especially since he regularly beats and rapes them. The one aspect that is hinted at on the poster, the VR helmet, I felt was also poorly utilized. It makes for quite a prop and gives Brad a sinister killer vibe ala Michael Myers and Jason Vorhees but is only used towards the end of the film and honestly there was no real motive as to why he uses it; possibly to re-watch the killings but that is just my guess. Arcuri is both frightened and strong willed but felt washed over by weak storytelling.
2 out of 5
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