dir. Travis Bible

Expanding his award-winning short of the same name, director Travis Bible’s latest follows four influencers as they livestream themselves entering Devil’s Manor, the one-time home of a satanic cult. Continuing the recent surge of livestream horrors – such as Dashcam, The Cleansing Hour and, best of the bunch, Deadstream – what #chadgetstheaxe may lack originality it diversifies by adding aspects of ‘screenlife’ movies, jumping between livestreams and showing the use of other apps on the mobile phone. 

The first 40 minutes are fairly insufferable, courtesy the central quartet, with the titular Chad (Spencer Harrison Levin) being particularly egregious. There’s an incident early on too that seems to be directly playing with an online controversy involving the infamous Paul Brothers, and while it’s an integral moment – dividing the friends and driving the film’s critique of influencer culture – it also leaves a bad taste in the mouth which the film struggles to get past.

And yet, as the narrative progresses and insidious dangers emerge, #chadgetstheaxe becomes a fascinating exploration both of why influencers need to stream and audiences need to watch. This is helped by what is essentially the fifth character: the livestream viewers’ comments, a steady stream of which accompany the action and garner some of the biggest laughs. After all, we now have a motivation for poor character choices – the need to chase more viewers. And as the final act progresses, the film threatens to become great.

As a result director Bible tests the audience before rewarding them with a surprising amount of depth. Our central group (Levin, alongside Michael Bonini, Taneisha Figueroa and Cameron Vitosh) all play their parts well, with Levin in particular impressing as he manages to eke out sympathy for Chad, even after his performative douchery.

Audience enjoyment will likely depend on whether you can make it through an opening act that tests one’s ability to endure repellant characters. However once it becomes clear how much trouble they’re in – and how much the livestream viewers like this – the film blossoms into a compelling, affecting critique of a life lived online, and the real world threats that still exist.

© Russell Bailey


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