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DVD Released: 12/30/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/23/2014
The thriller genre is a broad one and it often cuts across many subjects, the most popular of which is typically one person having the desire to do something bad to another person. Thrillers also love to focus on paranoia and there's nothing better than when the main character and the audience know something which no one else in the movie will believe. Over the years, filmmakers have repeatedly tapped into new technology as a jumping off point for the stories. We've seen things as varied as television, automobiles, robots, and even industrial laundry machines (Thanks, Stephen King!) featured in these movies. (Michael Crichton essentially made a career writing these kinds of stories.) Of course, computers have been the villains more times than not, and movies have gone out of their way to tell us that we can't trust our machines. As technology changes, as do the stories, and we now have App, a movie which will make you think twice about using your cell phone.
App introduces us to Anna (Hannah Rijnders), a psychology student who lives with her best friend, Sophie (Isis Cabolet). Anna is an OK student, but she's distracted, as she's caring for her brother, Stijn (Alex Hendrickx), who was in a motorcycle accident. Sophie drags Anna to party, where she runs into an ex-boyfriend, Tim (Robert de Hoog). The next morning, Anna awakens to find a new app on her phone, which is called Iris. She's not sure what it is, but she likes it, as it helps her to answer a question in class. But, things begin to get weird, as a scandalous video of Sophie is spread around campus, and Anna discovers that someone has been recording her as well. Anna begins to suspect that Iris is involved, but the app cannot be deleted. When people start to die, Anna realizes that she must discover Iris' origin.
While cell phones have become as ubiquitous in the United States as, oh I donít know, breathing, they have been indispensable in Asia for much longer. Thatís why we saw movies like One Missed Call and Phone come from that part of the world over a decade ago. (Of course,One Missed Call was remade in America in 2008.) So, the rest of the world has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to cell phone related horror movies, and thus, itís a bit surprising that an entry would come from The Netherlands, which is not the region which comes to mind when I think of cutting-edge horror movies. Still, one must admit that writer Robert Arthur Jansen has hit upon something with the idea of an evil app, even if the name is simply ďSiriĒ in reverse.
And if one can suspend one's disbelief, most of App works. How Iris can access other computers is never fully explained, but knowing what we do about Wi-fi and Bluetooth, we can assume that it's mildly plausible. We've all had functions on our phone or computer that didn't work exactly right, so Anna's frustrations with the app make sense. The way in which Anna's privacy is invaded isn't necessarily creepy, but knowing what we do from the headlines, it's something to think about. When the deaths begin, the movie becomes somewhat far-fetched, but Director Bobby Boermans has opted to keep everything grounded in reality, and this certainly helps the movie. Also, with its lean 79-minute running time, the movie is well-paced and never drags.
However, like so many movies, App does have a fatal flaw...or two. The movie is somewhat of a mystery, as one of Anna's goals is learning how Iris got on her phone. Yes, she's distracted by some other obstacles, but it takes her far too long to approach the person who the audience has pegged as a suspect from the outset. The movie wants us to find Anna smart and resourceful (not to mention cute), but the fact that she can't see what is very obvious to us is frustrating. And this isn't one of those movies where we have been given more information than the characters. It's simply that the key suspect is obvious and Anna takes a while to come around. The movie has two other issues. First of all, there is an implied supernatural angle which may involve a ghost which is never explored. This part is very reminiscent of an Asian horror movie, but it goes nowhere. Secondly, the ending feels very rushed and I'm still not sure if I got the villain's secondary gains.
I Googled "Dutch Horror Movies" and I didn't get many results, so I guess that it's admirable that Boermans and Jansen have pursued this genre with App, even if the movie falls more into the "techno-thriller" category. The movie takes a concept that could skew to either clever or silly, depending on your point-of-view, and straddles the line between realistic and fantastic. The result is a movie which offers some suspense, fairly well-drawn characters, and a few surprises. Anyone who has been dissatisfied with an app will find something to like in App.
App made me question my knowledge of Sim cards on DVD courtesy of Ram Releasing. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer has been enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the picture is never overly dark or bright. The picture has a very nice crispness to it, which helps to deliver a good level of detail and depth. The DVD carries several auido tracks, the main of which being a Dutch Dolby Digital 5.1 track which delivers clear dialogue and sound effects. The track sounds somewhat hollow at times, but during the action sequences, there are noticeable stereo and surround effects. In addition, the car wreck scene brings home some subwoofer action.
The App DVD contains only two extra features. "Special Effects Featurette" (2 minutes) is a brief segment which shows how various layers were combined to create the visual effects in a variety of shots. The other extra is a TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long