What to Watch Verdict
'Shook' is a story about follower counts, negligent selfishness, and jealousy run rampant that's rarely worth smashing the subscribe button.
📱 That opening kill sequence.
📱 Influencers get what's coming.
📱 Sloppy handling of dramatic subplots.
📱 Pacing problems.
📱 Loses screen life vibes in parts.
📱 Fairly basic assessment of online toxicity without much shock or awe.
As “screen life cinema” pushes boundaries, Shook exists as a grating revision. Jennifer Harrington’s Insta-glamour influencer thriller crams obnoxious livestreamers and slaughtered dogs (multiple) into an on-camera slasher that’s like if Jigsaw’s phone-addict niece attempted to guerilla her own low-budget massacre. Alesia Glidewell notches a story credit with Harrington the sole screenwriter, as they dare to blur the dangers of follower count jealousy with selfish internet personality manipulation. Everything we’ve seen before, except with slain animals, cheap cinematic values, and worldbuilding that fails everything from digital platform constructs to situational logic that’s more frustrating than playing Doom on Ultra-Nightmare.
As beauty ambassador Mia (Daisye Tutor) mourns another social media fashion model's demise, she decides to forgo her regular livestream hangout to puppysit sister Nicole’s (Emily Goss) pooch Chico. She’s honoring her deceased colleague, murdered by a serial dog killer. Of course, Mia can’t be bothered to care for Chico as she watches poser Lani (Nicola Posener), boyfriend Santi (Octavius J. Johnson), and bestie Jade (Stephanie Simbari) stream as a trio. Then she starts receiving “Unknown” calls from a number outed as the creepy neighbor boy, Kellan (Grant Rosenmeyer), whose parents were supposedly incarcerated for child pornography charges (so we’re told over and over). Even worse, Chico has vanished. Another victim of the canine assassin? Who knows, because once Chico goes missing, the real “funny games” begin.
Shook approaches themes of toxic personalities with the satirical weight of two-second-outline caricatures, exposing a trickster narrative that never surprises nor shocks. Between the fitness hottie playboy, rich-girl prototype, and boozer for attention, development doesn’t stretch beyond likable picture tiles. That’s undoubtedly part of the commentary - yet the script’s imbalance between atrocious fame-chasers realizing their faults and the ongoing doggie-death-dealer subplot never meets a tonal compromise. Outside an opening sequence where a cosmetics company stages its red-carpet rollout in an abandoned parking lot - livestream fakeness versus reality - and someone gets heel-spiked through the jaw with a stiletto, nothing else adeptly emphasizes the graveness or zaniness at hand. It’s a ludicrous narrative that demands to be taken seriously, a scenario that’s impossible to indulge.
You’re supposed to detest these characters — the cheaters, the backstabbers, the emotionless coat-tail riders — but further subtext assures Mia is by far the most corrupted soul in any crowd. Her hundred-thousand followers praise makeup tutorials and fantasize about Mia’s idyllic presentations, but Nicole sees a sister who abandoned a mother with Livingston’s disease as she deteriorates before death. Again I use the word “selfishness” because Harrington is rightfully concerned by famous, blue-checkmark influencers who are worshipped as icons based on groomable, precision-curated facades that begin and end with screened walls. It’s not to say Shook doesn’t come inherently scarred by technology’s grasp. It’s more how this suburban break-in slasher about ugly-inside “friends,” detestable choices, and society’s consumption of subscriber attention loses itself in its weaker genre representations.
As Mia’s night descends from dog watching while hate-viewing TequilaJane’s happy hour stream into games of grim choices hosted by Kellan via phone, Shook leaves audiences anything but the slang for rattled. Emily Goss is the standout here given her character’s role in the stabbings, moral chastising, and nonsense masterplan that unfurls, but often feels ripped from a more psychotic offering. Otherwise, the night’s festivities pressure “contestants” into horrific trials that are lost in the awkward editing around text bubbles, and a plot that’s at first meandering while Mia calls for Chico, then off-the-wall in ways that produce cackles for the wrong reasons. Characters belittle life-ending illnesses, Mia discovers her friends' purest intentions, and the impetus for prolonged tortures reveals itself with an almost facepalm cluelessness. Twists I won't divulge, because there are some big swings, but within a confined experience that never boasts the execution to allow for such hackneyed screen-life cinema.
As a violently playful punishment nightmare, as a condemnation of online cultures, Shook is a scattershot mess that’s as off-putting as it is ambitious. It’s the prime offender for DoesTheDogDie.com, includes plotlines that often have no consequences, and at times doesn’t understand the on-screen frameworks it's trying to exploit. Little things like choosing a smartphone to be the primary lens in a scene, then surrounding said window with videocam users voyeuristically watching a brawl. Yet multiple angles cut between what should be an uninterrupted feed? Odd choices like this negate the stylistic usages of projectors to overlay Mia’s screen onto beds (dreamlike), or imagine users zapped into her living room (hearing conversations vs. reading words), as this sloppily vengeful stunt film renders itself ineffective. There’s nothing more deflating than a plan that never comes together.
Matt Donato is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film critic who stays up too late typing words for What To Watch, IGN, Paste, Bloody Disgusting, Fangoria and countless other publications. He is a member of Critics Choice and co-hosts a weekly livestream with Perri Nemiroff called the Merri Hour. You probably shouldn't feed him after midnight, just to be safe.