Welcome to the age of the internet celebrity. What once took immeasurable amounts of luck, talent, and ambition can now be achieved from the comfy confines of your own bedroom with only a computer, a webcam, and a gimmick. From tone-deaf pre-teens and hobos with radio-friendly voices to talentless socialites armed with night vision cameras, the internet has proven that anyone can be someone so long as they’re ready, willing, and able to take everything and anything their not-so-adoring public can dish out. The phenomenon has proven fertile ground for horror filmmakers, and Joshua Butler’s Vlog is another example of the genre’s attempts to the mine the depths of internet celebrity for gloriously gory gold.
Meet Brooke Marks (played by the real life cam girl...err...Brooke Marks) . A chatty, catty, and highly opinionated young woman, Brooke is more than your average “cam girl”. Sure, she takes to the airwaves wearing little more than a bra and panties, but that’s just the bait; once she has you hooked, this hot blonde reveals she’s got serious smarts. Brooke wants to offer her viewers something more than the typically inane chatter of her peers, and decides to use her platform for both social commentary and experimentation. Armed with a hidden camera, Brooke documents her various dalliances with a series of lovers as well as her interactions with friends, then airs the footage, replete with wry commentary and graphic embellishments to her faithful fans. However, while Brooke’s page views rise, so, too, does the ire of one of her regular viewers; one that decides to conduct a little social experiment of his own. Soon, the people featured in Brooke’s vlog begin to pay the price for her unscrupulous behavior, are murdered in extra-violent fashion, and then broadcast for Brooke to see.
Vlog is an odd mix of pseudo-snuff flick, parody, and social commentary that starts off promisingly but, ultimately, nosedives in its final act. The first thirty minutes of the film are blood-free, spontaneous, and oftentimes laugh-out-loud funny, with Brooke offering her skewed observations on everything from emo chicks to online sexual predators, and it’s here that the film is at its best. Brooke Marks (the real one, not the character), has her own cam show that's actually quite funny, charming, and intelligent. While she imbues this ficitonal version of herself with some of these traits, she also throws in just enough bitchy attitude and vapidness to perfectly embody the general perception of the prototypical cam girl. When she's secretly filming (and sharing and commenting on) awkard come-ons, overly emotional exchanges, and vapid friends, the film is really funny and, despite its age (released in 2008, Vlog is positively ancient by internet standards), quite timely. Once the horror element kicks in (a tonal shift that is not only jarring, but feels totally out of place considering what we’ve seen up to that point), things become much more routine, and, despite some creative and very-well-orchestrated kills (the highlight of which is a gruesomely convincing exploding bong), ultimately falls apart. Once Brooke realizes she’s in trouble and enlists the aid of the local police, the film’s thoroughly unsurprising twist becomes all the more apparent, with the Saw-style flashbacks (which probably shouldn't have come as a surprise as it's a Twisted Pictures flick) that make up Vlog’s final moments proving as uninspired as the revelation.
Vlog comes to DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay. The film is presented in a 1.78:1 transfer that is as uneven as the film, itself. Of course, much of this has to do with the multiple sources, with the “cam footage” having a sort of compressed look, Brooke’s hidden camera being lent a fuzzy, gauzy aesthete, while the traditional footage is DV sharp. As a result, it’s impossible to really grade the transfer overall. I did notice some blocking in darker scenes, as well as a hint of digital noise, but, for the most part, I’m guessing that the film looks the way Butler wanted it to look, and said look works for the subject matter. The accompanying 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is actually quite good, but, like the video, the audio has been tinkered with to match its intended source. The sound effects, especially one particularly nasty dismemberment sequence, are very well mixed, and you can almost feel the sound of saw carving through bone.
Extras include some “bonus” Vlog posts from Brooke, and, to be honest, this is the stuff I wanted to see more of. Thankfully, we've got YouTube for that. Also included are trailers for other Anchor Bay releases.
While Vlog isn't the best example of the tech-horror genre, and the film stumbles badly in its final act, I have to admit that, despite its flaws, Vlog was actually sort of entertaining and held my attention in a traffic accident sort of way. Gorehounds will love the kills in this one as they’re absolutely gruesome, while the scantily-clad Marks is very easy on the eyes, so at the very least Vlog’s got the sex and violence thing covered. It’s a shame it didn’t have a better thought out story, though, or I’d have been able to recommend this as something more than a rental.