For all of you out there who don’t know me, get ready … ‘Cuz you’re about to know me. I’m Kurt.
In the year 2020, social media is as prevalent as ever. There are so many positive ways to use the internet to influence and connect with others. What if striving to have the widest outreach possible created deadly situations? Cut to Spree. With a star-studded cast, including Joe Keery (Stranger Things) in his first feature film leading role, the cast really inhabits their roles. Keery plays Kurt Kunkle. Kurt (who goes by kurtsworld96 on social media) strives for the ultimate social media presence, and he’s willing to go to great lengths to achieve his kingdom of stardom. Spree first made its debut at Sundance Film Festival this year, taking the circuit by storm.
There are spoilers beyond this point, read at your own risk.
The film starts off with a draw my life of Kurt’s life before he goes live on his Instagram with his dad, Kris, an out of touch DJ played by David Arquette (Scream, You Cannot Kill David Arquette). While we get a glimpse into Kurt’s life, gaining an insider’s perspective into his actions and one could even make a point to argue that it may make viewers sympathize with Kurt, making Keery’s performance as the social media killer that much more believable. Kurt then started KurtsWorld in 2009. We see Kurt struggle to gain views and popularity over a 10 year period, that is until he comes up with #thelesson. Kurt says it will take place in the front of his car during his rideshares for Spree and boy, are they in for a ride…
Throughout the film, we see Kurt drive around various passengers and unwilling participants as a Spree rideshare driver. All of the passengers are met with an unprecedented death, unbeknownst to them, all in the name of views and followers. Through this, we get introduced to Jessie (Sasheer Zamata), a comedian in Los Angeles. During a ride with passenger Mario (John DeLuca), Kurt picks up Jessie as part of a Spree Social ride. When Mario puts two and two together about who Jessie is and tells Kurt she has a huge following on social media, Kurt inquires about how she was able to grow. She narrowly escapes impending death and later on in the film, we come across Jessie again, this time, she has devised her own agenda and plans to stop Kurt right in his tracks.
One of Kurt’s most notable murderous Spree’s is with London (Mischa Barton), Richard (Frankie J. Grande), and Kendra (LaLa Kent). Claiming they want an adventure, Kurt takes them to the very place he says he practically grew up in — the junkyard. After claiming all three of their lives and bringing his total to seven kills, Kurt calls Bobbie, a popular influencer, to ask him if he saw what just happened on the stream. Bobbie interjects telling Kurt if he actually wants to be good at influencing, he should take notes from Jessie, starting the road to stardom for Kurt. But will it be worth it?
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Towards the end of the film, everything hits the fan. Or, house rather because after the police catch wind of the Spree killer, they are on the search for Kurt. Kurt poses as a gogo driver after he kills the previous one and steals his car, only to cross paths with Jessie once again, saying they could be the ultimate power couple and take social media by storm with their followers. When Jessie catches wind of the bad vibes Kurt is giving off, she attempts to take matters into her own hands, which ticks Kurt off. After Kurt tries to run her over, she somehow comes to and steals the car, chases after Kurt in said car, before crashing into Kurt’s home. As previously mentioned, the cast really does a great job of showing the raw emotion of their characters, mostly seen in Keery’s performance, Zamata and Arquette hold their own opposite of Keery. Specifically in this scene, emotions are running high, so much so that you’re bound to be on the edge of your seat because you are desperate to see Kurt’s next move.
Director/writer Eugene Kotlyarenko and writer Gene McHugh do a fantastic job showcasing the realities of the dark parts of social media while also recognizing that these tropes at the end of the day are sensitive topics. There are real people out there that do respond this way, able to walk the line of being respectful but keeping it engaging and entertaining for the audience. Kotlyarenko also made sure the attention to detail in the movie was spot on, especially to today’s standards where everyone is constantly attached to their phones and the internet, adding further context to the scenes that not only frame who Kurt Kunkle is, but also the movie as a whole.
All in all, Spree is a wild ride from start to finish. Although in points, there are predictabilities in the plot, they don’t take away from the anticipation that builds watching Kurt commit heinous acts and wondering: what will be next? Who will his next victim be? They make the film a delectable mess of gore while showcasing the desperate, dark side of social media. Leaving viewers with several questions, but the biggest one to ask ourselves: Are we the real problem?
Spree is available to screen in select cities and stream on-demand now. For the full list of cities and platforms the movie is available on, click here.