Spree is one of those movies that has weirdly flown under the radar. Part of it, I’m sure, is the pandemic, which has killed a lot of interest in movies in general (ironically, what’s at the core of the movie is only more relevant in our current endless pandemic). But it’s probably one of the most of-our-times movies I’ve seen yet.

Spree follows 23 year old Kurt Kunkle, a driver on the Spree rideshare app and failed youtuber/influencer, as he goes on a live streamed killing spree (get it) throughout Los Angeles to get his 15 minutes of fame. It’s shot in a found footage style where everything is either a dashcam (his car is set up with multiple for his stream), a phone camera, or a security camera. It’s great, but I can’t stand looking at a front facing selfie cam for more than an hour, so I had to split watching this into multiple days.

But what I’m here to talk about is the broader stuff operating in this movie, why I liked it so much. Spree is about a specific sickness. Alienation.

An old viral video of a “influencer school” in China, because its kinda on topic and I need to break up the post.

Kurt’s motivation is to be a popular content creator. From an early age, he’s been grinding every way to be a popular content creator, from tutorial videos to gaming, but he consistently hits 1 or 0 views at best. In spite of his best efforts, he’s subject to the whims of the machine and can’t find a way to make things click and actually get a viewership. Working a second job as a driver for the Spree app, he also is subject to the random whims of a machine. Part of this is that he is very much an inauthentic person – we get no sense of his life or desires outside of going viral. Eventually, in desperation, he turns to: using his job as a driver for the spree app as a way to murder his passengers, livestreaming a brutal, random, killing spree across LA. He calls this “The Lesson”, and he regularly starts to explain it, but is never able to complete this.

This is important; It’s livestreamed. Throughout the whole movie, we only see what is happening through livestreams, either from his car (He’s set up his car to have multiple cameras from different angles, to at least change things up) or nearby live streams, security videos, et cetera. Keep that in mind.

Early on, he gets only one viewer, a kid that he babysat when he was younger who has now become a famous influencer. Unable to get a large audience, in desperate anger he ends up murdering said influencer for his own livestream audience, and jumping off of that gets more followers as he continues his killing spree. Throughout this, he starts to be directed by the audience, following along with what they say, like Twitch Plays Pokemon. As the livestream audience gets more control over him, the goals that were so crucial to his earlier phase, like whatever “The Lesson” was, for example, end up being overwritten by the audience. At the ending climax, the livestream has even overwritten his instincts, and he ends up freezing when confronted with being run over by a car, until the chat tells him to run.

The movie ends with a montage / credit sequence of the media reaction to the killings, cut together from all kinds of news sources, subreddits, etc, eventually turning into a 4chan thread devoted to him, like there are to many other mass killers. Finally, we’re given a last reveal: the movie had been made by a 4chan user, cut together from saved livestreams, court evidence, et cetera into a disturbing fan film, titled Spree.

Now, as a reminder: The app that he works for is named Spree. The penultimate reveal of this film is that everything about him has been overwritten by social media and algorithms, his individuality replaced with his boss. Spree speaks to a special sickness in modern society – the alienation of people from each other and from themselves. His identity had been overwritten by algorithms, taking over not only his job but eventually erasing his identity as a distinct human being, becoming a puppet of twitch chats and rideshare apps. Really, his struggle for viral internet fame is a struggle to be acknowledged by other people in any real sense. In the end, when he finally is acknowledged, it isn’t even him. It’s his boss.

Truly, an American movie.

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