Joe Keery's wholesome boy-next-door persona takes a backseat in his most recent starring role. Spree, which premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, follows Keery's character Kurt Konkel (also known as KurtsWorld96, make sure to like and subscribe) in his quest to become an online sensation. Though it starts out as a relatable Gen-Z comedy about vloggers, it quickly turns into a bloody slasher film.
Kurt is a ride-share app driver who decides to create a "How To Go Viral" guide for his less-than-20 followers. He explains the major requirement is a ton of "WTF" moments, which turn into a series of rampant killings airing on his live stream. But although the movie becomes centered on hard-to-watch murders, at it's core, director Eugene Kotlyarenko explains Spree is really about the affects of social media.
"I think really early on in the social media moment, everybody collectively decided that sharing was a good thing, inherently," Kotlyarenko says. "Kurt is a perfect example of someone who's operating in this [mindset]. He thinks he's doing good. He's basically making a tutorial and tutorials help people, so he's helping people by sharing this idea ... In his mind, he's engaging in a good deed and he is completely divorced from the horrific immorality of his behavior."
Viewers initially feel a twinge of empathy for Kurt. He's a desperate wanna-be influencer, someone everyone has encountered on their timeline at some point. Kotylarenko doesn't want people to feel sympathy for him, though, saying, "These [influencers] are coming from a really pathetic place, which is really transparent to me – it's just this desire for attention."
To pull inspiration for the role, Keery and the editing and directing teams watched videos of influencers who never made it big. "You know," Kotlyarenko explains, "the people who post 10, 20, 30 times a week who have less than 50 followers ... that's really who informed Kurt Konkel." Kotlyarenko even put together a long-form compilation of vlogs that he shared with Keery and the other actors.
Keery even improvised some of Kurt's tag lines based on what he watched. "[Keery] just really wanted to find the place where the sentiment behind what Kurt was after could feel universal," Kotlyarenko says.
Along with Kurt's general ethos, the way the movie is filmed and edited is jarringly realistic. The film's editor, Benjamin Moses Smith, tells Elite Daily the movie is edited with Adobe Premiere Pro and shot exclusively on iPhones and dash cams. Viewers are completely taken into "Kurt's World;" it's as if you're watching a live-stream of your favorite celebrity unfold on screen. It's a worst-case scenario depiction of the horrors of social media that will likely leave the touch-screen generation "smashing that like button."
Spree was acquired by RLJE Films; a theatrical release will be coming soon.