Perhaps the worst by product of the internet is the bullying and public shaming that occurs on the web. People who would never say something confrontational in person feel empowered behind a username on the web to spew vicious criticism or to post personal information. These online elements are key in Director Hong Seok-Jae internet mystery film Socialphobia.
Ji-woong (Byeon-Yo-han) and Yong-min (Lee Joo-seung) are both training to become police officers having completed the first stage of tests. They spend time with a group of college friends who are always on their phones, posting in chat rooms and sending out tweets on trending topics. A solider from the army deserts and commits suicide thus becoming the number one media story on the web. A female poster Ha-yeong (Ha Yoon-Kyeong) known a Rena tweets unflattering things about the solider and men in general. She receives immediate backlash from the Korean Netizens leading Ji-woong, Yong-min and their friends join up with Internet live show host Mr. Babble to go after her to shame her live on air for her comments.
Rena address is made public and the group head to her place with laptop in hand streaming live on the air. When they arrive she is found hanging leading to quick police involvement and a crystal path of the boys activities on the web. The students now face a backlash themselves as the internet devotees begin to theorize that Rena was possibly murdered. Ji-woong and Yong-min's jump on the investigation hoping to clear their names and not jeopardize their chances of joining the police force.
Director Hong Seok Jae continues the growing trend of turning the movie screen into a giant social media display. Tweets, instant messages, chat boxes all appear on screen as does the feed of the Mr. Babble show. The result is a cluttered landscape that takes the viewer out of being in the moment with the film. The technique is used effectively on one occasion as a key piece of information is gleaned then discussed in a chat room. However this time the screen is black save for the white wording and current users comments on screen. The production also suffered from uneven writing. The investigation into the death is poorly done turning into a mob attack and accusations of guilt on whoever appears to be the key suspect at the moment.
The cast is functional with no member separating from the ensemble to warrant specific comment. For the majority of the time the characters are staring at or typing on their phones passing them around to colleagues to view when they have said something particularly insulting to some unseen adversary.
Socialphobia is a mean spirited look at the pitfalls of social networking. The story is uneven and the main plot point for does not reach a satisfactory conclusion. There are some elements here that could have been developed into a useful commentary on the topic but it just doesn't occur.
** Out of 4
Socialphobia | Hong Seok Jae | South Korea | 2014 | 100 Minutes.
Tags : Internet bullying, suicide, homicide, Chat Room, Twitter, Cell Phone, investigation, Mob mentality.