Anchor Bay // 2008 // 70 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // October 11th, 2011
You never know who's watching.
Brooke Marks is a vlogger. She spends countless hours on the Internet talking about her life, and she has a camera with her at all times that secretly records people with whom she interacts.
One night, she gets a mysterious phone call directing her to a mystery website. When she logs on, she sees various people she knows being slaughtered.
Is Brooke going to be the next victim?
Well, yes, she is, and it's no spoiler to tell you this, because Vlog opens with our heroine's badly staged murder. We then backtrack several weeks to see the events that lead up to this dastardly act -- only what we see isn't all that enlightening. In fact, it's downright tedious.
It's also a bit disingenuous. Brooke Marks is, in fact, a real webcam girl, and she has a pay site. The front page -- and that's as far as I got -- features video of Brooke dancing around topless with duct tape on her nipples and promises of "Tiny Tiny White Panties Show," private forum, girlfriend galleries, and other enticements.
So, Brooke is playing Brooke, only she's not, since movie Brooke does nothing as interesting as duct taping her nipples. Instead, movie Brooke surreptitiously films guys she's dating and then webcasts their idiosyncrasies. You'd think that with her supposedly ginormous viewing audience, the guys might figure this out, but they don't, which means she can cruelly mock them and even break up with them on camera, and they have no idea they've really been punk'd.
I don't know about real Brooke, but movie Brooke is awfully obnoxious and self-important; you don't watch Brooke Marks so much as you endure her, at least as she's presented here. The killings start around mid-way through, and while they're a welcome respite from our Camgirl's inane prattling, they're pretty ridiculously staged -- elaborate, silly, and fake looking.
Schlocky, low-budget/low-effort films like this exist in their own universe, a place where "normal" behavior has no place. I'm not talking "normal" -- for example, not killing people -- versus aberrant -- for example, killing several people. I'm talking about the more mundane stuff, like:
* A complete stranger can walk into your home, drug your drink, and go completely unnoticed even though you're talking on your cell phone three feet away;
* A police investigation of a missing person report is done without benefit of forensics or even contacting the missing one's family or friends;
* A person is stabbed in the middle of a crowded club and all the other clubgoers just stand around and scream, with no one going after the killer;
* When someone calls the police to talk about this very public crime, presumably hours later, the police are unaware that it even happened to the point of being skeptical;
* The above-mentioned "I'm taping my boyfriends during intimate moments, webcasting them, and they NEVER FIGURE IT OUT" business;
And so on.
So while some people might enjoy a film like Vlog for the splatter effects, it's impossible to connect with it on even the slightest level. It's not suspenseful, shocking, or particularly interesting, and no one involved seems to care enough to make an effort to ground it in any sort of reality.
It's kind of a shame that director Joshua Butler either didn't see or chose not to address the irony of the whole vlogging thing and how social media has skewed interpersonal connections.
In one sequence, Brooke bemoans that some guy she's never met turned down her friend request. Because there were a few things she liked in his profile, she thought, "He might be different." Maybe this is supposed to be ironic, and I'm just missing it, but I don't think so; I think we're actually supposed to sympathize with Brooke's hurt feelings. Granted, I don't social network, but are people really aggrieved when someone they've never met declines to add them to a list of largely anonymous "followers," or is Butler commenting on how people like Brooke have become too wrapped up in the whole online experience?
Or a scene in which Brooke goes all middle school on some woman who called her out in a public place, secretly filming the woman and then doing a vlog in which she -- surprise! -- mocks the woman's appearance and weight (the woman seems to be a whopping size 6). Is Butler commenting on how the Internet has given grown-ups the power to act as pathetically as 10-year-olds who make fun of their less-popular peers? Or are we actually supposed to be tickled as Brooke uses video and audio effects to paint a normal-looking woman as some sort of Yeti?
I think we're actually supposed to be on Team Brooke. I think we're supposed to feel her pain at an anonymous friend rejection and laugh heartily at her idiotic "gotcha!" at some otherwise insignificant woman. I don't think Butler has anything deeper here than a cheap and silly techno-slasher.
Vlog, which evidently started out as a web series, is being released by Anchor Bay. Anchor Bay's disc offers an acceptable image and perfectly audio. For supplements, we get what appears to be alternate takes of some of Brooke's vlog moments. More scenes of Brooke vlogging? Yep, it's torture porn.
The fact that there really is a webgirl named Brooke Marks doesn't add any intimacy or altered perception to all this; in fact, it just makes it all the more skeevy in that the whole things comes off as an infomercial for pay-per-view Web site.
A dumb and cheapjack nonthriller with an unlikeable central character and a preposterous central story, Vlog is a waste. Google it if you must.
Review content copyright © 2011 Tom Becker; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 70 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Vlogs