“Hey guys. Welcome to Kurt’s World!”
How far would you go to go viral?
Within the first few minutes of gonzo-style thriller and black as all hell comedy Spree, the scene is set. The audience learns that twenty-four-year-old Los Angelite Kurt Kunkle has been broadcasting his video blog “Kurt’s World” for ten years.
To Kurt’s (Stranger Things’ Joe Keery’s) mounting frustration, his engagement and viewership rarely reaches double figures. It’s a similar dilemma to that of someone in the adorkable 2018 award nominee Eighth Grade. Only significantly less wholesome.
This setup is depressing as hell, and initially it’s difficult not to feel for the undeniably pathetic Kunkle. It’s also very, very funny as Kurt blogs about topics from family life to historic-political commentary. In a Very Special Episode about 9/11, he concludes “No-one could ever forget an event like that. Real or fake.”
But on April twelfth, 2019, Kurt finally goes viral.
Tired of screaming into the void, the wannabe celebrity concocts a vague plan called ‘The lesson’. You see, as well as an aspiring Youtuber, Kurt also works as a ‘Spree’ driver (the fictional Spree is an Uber-like rideshare app), and his plan for fame involves dashcams that capture in real-time the passengers’ bloody fates. Will stand-up comic and bona-fide Youtube sensation herself Jessie Adams (Sashoe Zamata) survive?
From start to finish the acting is brilliant fun and the cast pitch perfect. As well as a scene-stealing Keery, we’re treated to appearances from reality tv veterans Mischa Barton and Frankie Grande, as well as David Arquette as Kurt’s coke-up, washed up, wannabe music producer dad. These cameos are great because all three participants could be playing themselves, albeit not the most flattering versions.
Spree is also a technical achievement. Made on a micro-budget, the kills aren’t as realistic as they could be. But director Eugene Kotlyarento more than makes up for that with creativity and commitment to gonzo style (only two shots were filmed with traditional cameras). In fact, “Is Spree a true story” is one of the first hits to come up if you Google the film.
In conversation with Borrowing Tape.com, Spree’s director explains his conception of “the psychological similarity of the wannabe influencer (which is a cringe version of an average user) and the mass murderer.”
“As we wrote it I was just pulling from my knowledge of these online personalities and spaces, like you know I remembered several egregious scams where homeless people were exploited for notoriety or donations, which was the basis of “Homeless Hero,” Kotlyarento says.
“…we got more into building the “Kurt Kunkle” character we looked at a bunch of videos from the most popular well-known influencers, to people who only had single-digit views to try to figure out which scripts they were emulating and how exactly they communicated to the camera, and their imagined audience.”
In a world where kids grow up wanting to be Youtubers and influencers, that’s a pretty scary thought.
“It’s not always easy making great content,” Kurt complains in the film to his few subscribers. He’s right. But it’s not a problem that Kotlyarento and co-writer Gene McHugh have. Spree is, quite simply, ninety-something minutes of great content. Finally, the twist ending validates the old adage that “If you can’t be famous, be infamous.”
Sit back and enjoy the ride. You’ll never think of an Uber in quite the same way.
Verdict - 9/10