ChadGetsTheAxe - FrightFest Glasgow International Premiere Review
Director: Travis Bible
Starring: Spencer Harrison Levin, Taneisha Figueroa, Michael Bonini, Brandon Doyle
Written by: Travis Bible, Kemerton Hargrove
Produced by: Travis Bible, Kemerton Hargrove, Frances O'Hanlon
Cinematography by: Rob Senska
Original Score by: Brian Deming
Four social media influencers live stream their trip to Devil's Manor, former home to a satanic cult.
It really says a lot when, in the year of our lord 2023, I’d rather be trapped in a lift with someone like Michael Myers rather than spend my time with a social influencer. When everyone’s “15 minutes of fame” feels more like a doomsday clock these days, there’s nothing more annoying than watching the lengths people will go just to be the next big thing. There’s been several movies recently that have turned their hand at found footage horror from the perspective of social influencers. Films like ‘DASHCAM’, ‘Deadstream’ and ‘Spree’ have all been very successful in the past few years. I think that influences work well in the found footage genre as their characters are hateable from the first frame. We want to see them be punished for their hubris, but there’s a fine line on how unlikeable they can be.
In ‘ChadGetsTheAxe’, four influencers take a trip to Devil’s Manor to see how many views they can get on their live streams but it isn’t long before things take a bad turn and the teenagers find themselves being picked off. It’s a basic premise that’s been done a thousand times; teenagers in the woods discover something they shouldn’t and get killed. So, no matter what I say, if you’re already sick of that premise, this film won’t be for you. The characters truly are hateable, but the actor who plays Chad (Spencer Harrison Levin) really has a fantastic on-screen presence. He’s really acting circles around the rest of the cast and is clearly comfortable to improvise and make the scenes more believable. Taneisha Figueroa also does a great job as Jennifer, sharing some excellent on-screen chemistry with Levin. I highlight these two actors because the movie starts with Steve, played by Michael Bonini, and his acting is so bad I honestly wanted to turn the film off. An awkward, stilted performance that isn’t helped with a camera shoved in his face for the first 20 minutes.
The most frustrating thing about the film is that it keeps pulling its horror punches. They keep teasing that maybe it’s a prank, maybe there’s something more going on, but no spoilers, there isn’t anything else going on. No twists, no clever reveals, just each person getting killed until it’s over. There is some fun social commentary about influencers but it’s literally only during the end credits.
There’s a kernel of a great idea here, but it doesn’t go far enough into the absurd or the true terror of the situation to really push it over the line to make it amazing. The director, Travis Bible, does a great job including the comments section on the side of the screen (much like DASHCAM and Deadstream) and cutting between different streams. It’s hard to make found footage engaging but Bible clearly has enough knowledge of modern-day streamers that he’s able to keep the film entertaining.
Like I said, other films have taken this exact idea and executed it in more interesting ways, but honestly the performances of Levin’s and Figueroa really kept my interest peaked all the way to the closing credits. It may not be as fun as the couple of movies I’ve already mentioned above but it’s good enough to stand side by side with those films. This movie will definitely find an audience on Netflix or Shudder, maybe the zoomer generation will find these characters less annoying and more relatable than me AND THEY BETTER STAY OFF MY LAWNNNNN!
- Adam Neeson
'Chad Gets the Axe' received its International Premiere at FrightFest Glasgow on Friday 10th March