Ahhh, American tourists being slaughtered in foreign lands. It’s a scenario recently made wildly popular in Hostel and carried on in films like Turistas, Wolf Creek, and The Human Centipede. These films typically portray visitors from the U.S. as douchebags who party hard and have their sights set on one thing: ravaging the local female population.
Now Pablo Larcuen’s Hooked Up is carrying the torch, only the douches film their debauchery strictly on iPhones. Yes, it boasts to be the first feature film shot entirely on an iPhone (it was shot in 2011). This actually makes sense – two young tourists in Barcelona filming their exploits on their iPhones. This is totally plausible and for the most part, Larcuen’s film works on a lot of levels. There’s a palpable claustrophobic atmosphere, decent acting, and some real terror. It also sinks in many ways, particularly during the first 20 minutes of the film, where I wanted nothing more in the world than to turn the damn thing off.
One minute into the film, I wanted the two guys to be killed off. Tonio (Jona Ehrenreich) and Peter (Stephen Ohl) are best buds. Well I think they’re supposed to be at least. When they’re not arguing over the fallout of Peter’s recent break-up, in which he was dumped for kissing another girl, they’re whining about whether or not “get pussy.” Tonio has got to be one of the most offensive main characters I’ve seen in a long time. There’s a shot that lasts about five minutes in the very beginning, in which Peter is vomiting into a toilet and Tonio is filming him, trying to explain how awesome going to Barcelona to get laid will be. It took a lot of strength to not turn the movie off at this point.
Once the guys do arrive in Barcelona, they party a lot. And it’s obnoxious. Eventually Hooked Up finally gets rolling when Peter meets a girl who’s overly into him at a club. They follow her back to her grandparents’ house – a confined multi-story place with tightly wound staircases and long dark hallways. It’s a terrific set for a haunted house, as the guys soon find out. Larcuen does a great job establishing the geography. When the guys are running for their lives (which they do a lot), we know exactly where they are and what room they’re hiding in. Hooked Up works really well in this aspect. There are wicked long shots in the hallways, where the masked killer could run down any second. The tension ratchets up a great deal during many of these cat and mouse scenes.
As far as the killer goes, I really wish they had dipped into the mythology behind her some more. There are brief moments when they flirt with her past, but these parts come fast and frantic, giving the audience barely any time to digest what was explained. It would’ve been nice to get a better understanding of why she was going berserk on the guys. Because of the frantic pace, a lot of the supernatural elements of the film get jumbled up. I’m honestly not even sure if there were supposed to be supernatural elements, since the killer’s backstory is blazed through so quickly.
While I wanted to throttle Peter and Tonio during the first third of Hooked Up, once the horror kicks in they actually become tolerable characters. Jona Ehrenreich and Stephen Ohl both do a great job maintaining the intensity and terror. They have a natural “bro” chemistry (bromistry?) on screen and through the course of the film, as motivations shift and crumble, we get to see their friendship take on a whole new life and death.
Hooked Up suffers from some of the trappings of found footage, particularly shaky cam. Holy hell there’s a lot of shaky cam. But for the most part, the violence and drama is front and center, with most of the shakiness reserved for running down stairs. I’m sure people who still insist on getting pissed over why characters continue to film while their lives are in danger will be yelling at the screen. I’m over that argument though. They’re still filming because it’s a movie, be cool about it.
There’s some fine set pieces at play and a few inventive moments, but the conclusion was wholly underwhelming. It builds up a lot of steam only to fizzle out. Though it certainly goes in an unexpected direction, Hooked Up‘s end fails to make an impact. If you can make it past the painful first 20 minutes, I’d say it’s definitely worth renting solely for the great middle chunk.
Hooked Up hits VOD and DVD April 7.