UFF 6 Review: Travis Bible Slices Into Influencer Culture With #chadgetstheaxe
There’s been a surge in recent years of horror directors tackling social media influencer culture and #chadgetstheaxe is the newest attempt and succeeds largely because of its dedication to the authenticity of recreating the live stream experience through it’s personalities, chat integration and slick editing. Opening with one influencer, Steve Spice, showing his followers (dubbed “The Spice Squad”) an abandoned paper factory before being pranked by fellow influencer, Chad Ryan. It’s clear that filmmaker Travis Bible wants to fully immerse yourself into the fictional world of the four streamers that take a trip to Devil’s Manor, the former home of a satanic cult in the swamps of Louisiana, to rack up the views while remaining oblivious to the fact that something sinister might be awaiting them.
Before they head off to Louisiana, the filmmakers cleverly set up the personalities that are going to be with us along the way through vlogs, text messages and recordings mostly shown through a computer screen. The transitions are seamless and the attention to detail in making the screenlife aspects as authentic as possible really help sell the immersion. The app icons, recording overlays, device interfaces and webpages all look just enough like their real-life counterparts to be identifiable without the need for the filmmakers to have to explain what you’re supposed to be looking at.
As for the personalities themselves, you have Chad Ryan who is the arrogant and energetic top streamer on “LiveLife” — who will seemingly do anything to entertain his audience — and Steve Spice, who seems to want to be in Chad’s position but doesn’t quite have the same confidence, which Chad uses to his advantage to belittle Steve to make himself look better to his audience. Accompanying them on the trip are couple Spencer (a musician) and Jennifer (a beauty streamer) who go by their couple name, Spennifer. For the most part the movie follows either Chad or Steve but will occasionally switch to Spennifer’s perspective to give you another viewpoint of the events transpiring.
It isn’t long after arriving at the manor that things take an admittedly expected turn when Chad and Steve find a body hanging in the attic of the house but when the body disappears upon their return all bets are off on whether or not something sinister is happening at the house or if this is just another prank these influencers are known to do. It’s a pretty standard setup but it’s personalities and live stream editing help keep things engaging throughout.
There’s one other accompanying party that I didn’t mention before because it deserves its own special section, and that’s the chat room. On the sides of the screen, whenever we are viewing one of their streams, a chat room is displayed on the corner of the screen that it hosts its own assortment of personalities and is unlike anything I’ve seen in the genre. We’ve seen chats play a role in screenlife films in the past, but here it takes on a personality of its own and impacts the story in several innovative ways. There are characters in the chat and stories that happen alongside the events of the stream itself, including one user who is determined to find the meaning of the word “yeet”, which had me laughing every time they popped up.
It’s an interesting dynamic at play as the four of them do things to appease the chat, with the viewer count continuing to rise consistently, while simultaneously trying to figure out exactly what is going on and keep themselves alive. The perspective swaps between the multiple streams is incredibly seamless and done at opportune times to both keep the viewer guessing and relay information that wouldn’t have been available from the other stream. There are also times where the streamer we are watching switches apps to either text, call, FaceTime and a few other surprises that I won’t spoil here, but is yet another way the smart use of technology adds tension to the film.
The refined editing helps uplift a rather basic premise, and even through its tropes there’s a clear attempt to keep you second guessing the events that are happening by smartly interweaving it’s screenlife elements, POV switches and chat presence. The personalities feel authentic to the real space these fictional characters would occupy and the setup leaves you with just enough doubt that you never really are certain you know what’s happening. There’s a lot going on in Travis Bible’s #chadgetstheaxe and the pace rarely lets up, but it’s critiques of influencer culture and the viewer’s role in it make this a unique in-world camera film that’s not to be missed. #chadgetstheaxe screened as part of the sixth annual Unnamed Footage Festival lineup, and a trailer can be found below.