- Emma Simmonds
- 10 August 2020
Stranger Things star Joe Keery steps up to leading man status in this dark social media satire
Fans of Stranger Things' Steve 'The Hair' Harrington – and there will be a fair few – will be delighted that the man behind the legend, actor Joe Keery, has bagged himself a lead film role. From director Eugene Kotlyarenko, Spree is only a very minor achievement but it has its moments and Keery delivers the goods to an impressive degree. It's a gonzo-style satirical thriller, flitting between social media streams, as a fame-hungry young man resorts to murderous means to attract followers.
Keery plays Kurt Kunkle, a Los Angeles-based driver for fictional ride-hailing app Spree. He's also the decade-long host of unpopular social media channel Kurt's World, where he posts a variety of inane and undesirable content. If Kurt at first seems like an affable idiot, then his perma-grin and embarrassing need to be liked conceal a far more sinister strategy for attention. Kurt has been spiking the bottled water that he offers his customers and live-streaming his kills.
Given the dark material, it's a shame that Spree doesn't manage to generate much in the way of dread and tension and, as with recent Russell Crowe vehicular thriller Unhinged, the persistent lack of police intervention is frustratingly far-fetched. The commentary feels a bit laboured over a feature duration, too, even if it doesn't seem like a huge stretch to imagine that this could actually happen.
But it's edited with aplomb and momentum and, with his deluded notions and frightening lack of remorse, Kurt really is an eerily credible figure, the kind of young spree-killer America has been notorious for. The film also contains enough additional input to keep things interesting; by broadening its perspective to incorporate the streams of several other associated characters – particularly black stand-up comic Jessie (nice work from Sasheer Zamata) – Kotlyarenko moves the target from the obviously pathetic to the apparently righteous, who can be just as obsessive in their exploitation of their own situations, and others.
Available to watch in cinemas from Fri 14 Aug.