September 26, 2013

uwantme2killhim? (2013)

"A teenage boy's descent into the dangerous world of the Internet and the harrowing consequences of his actions. A true story."

Based on a news story originally published by Vanity Fair, "uwantme2killhim?" is the off-putting txt-speak title of Andrew Douglas' somewhat flawed dramatisation. It's written like that for reasons which will become obvious (except that spaces are used in the chat room scene), but those of us of a certain age who have never succumbed to typing like an idiot are more likely to pass this movie by as something which is meant for teenagers. That's a real shame too, since there's a semi-decent psychological thriller lurking within.

It's not the best movie in the world (it looks like a cheap British soap opera), but "uwantme2killhim?" tries hard to present a true story which is far stranger than fiction in an entertaining manner. Artistic licence intentionally prevents you from seeing the whole picture until the end, and depending on how much you think the story could have been more realistic, you will probably still agree that it's quite cleverly done. For anyone taking the movie at face value, however, the ending will feel like an enormous cheat.

The biggest problem though, other than changing the names, ages, and location to protect the not-so-innocent, is that the characters feel "wrong" in every scene. It's not just the clich├ęs, everything they do and say reeks of fakery. To some extent it's intentional, but a lot of it is simply because the casting is questionable and the acting stinks. Not knowing how much is meant to be one way or the other until after the movie ends would be metafiction genius if handled better, but it's more likely to throw you out of the story than draw you in.

Who cut your hair? Dewhursts?

It isn't an issue that the characters talk to their computer screens as they type their words into a chatroom, we've all done that before. One character uses speech recognition software anyway, but it's easy to accept the movie convention when the others are clearly not using Microsoft NetMeeting or the yet to be invented Skype. I remember using Microsoft NetMeeting and a webcam at the end of the '90s, so the use of 2003 technology is spot-on otherwise. If you're feeling nostalgic for 2003, this is about as good as it gets without watching a movie which was actually made then.

Similarly, the school scenes may seem contrived and particularly horrible, but they are awkwardly realistic and familiar too for some bizarre reason which I can't quite put my finger on. Maybe it's because I've tried to forgot what it was like to be a very British teenager. The sad truth is that we're all complete dicks between 14-18 (and older!) with no exceptions, and I can recognise a lot of myself and my former school friends in the characters. Not that we were teenagers in the 2000s, but some things are universal. For the sake of not committing libel, all I can say is that we were some vile and immature little buggers.

While Channel 4's much shorter docu-drama version, "Kill Me If You Can" (2005), is slightly better overall, "uwantme2killhim?" isn't a bad "remake". Andrew Douglas' "The Amityville Horror" (2005) wasn't as strong as the original either, but as he's hardly a prolific director, maybe it's too early to say if there's a pattern forming.

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