FANTASIA FEST 2021: ‘#Blue_Whale’ Highlights The Dangers of Social Media

Reading Time: 3 minutes

#Blue_Whale

#Blue_Whale is a Russian language film directed and co-written by Anna Zaytseva and produced by Timur Bekmambetov under his Bazelevs banner. Teenager Dana’s (Anna Potebnya) home life is falling apart; her younger sister stepped into the path of an oncoming train, and the grief has led to her mother shutting herself off from the world. Going through her sister’s computer, Dana learns about the “Blue Whale Challenge,” a mysterious online game that sets 50 tasks to be completed over 50 days. The tasks soon grow more and more disturbing, with a mysterious figure named “Ada Morte” threatening to harm Dana’s loved ones if she doesn’t complete the game.

The film utilizes the Screenlife format, where the events of the movie take place entirely through computer and phone screens. Films like Unfriended (another Bekmambetov-produced affair) and Searching have used the Screenlife format to great effect, and #Blue_Whale follows in their footsteps by crafting a narrative that slowly escalates the feeling of dread in its audience. With every live stream and text message, the gravity of the game Dana is playing only increases—including a tense POV shot where her mother’s life is in danger. I’m usually not a fan of found-footage films, but this definitely has similar vibes to The Blair Witch Project, which Zaytseva says was a major influence in crafting this narrative.

What also helps keep the film rolling is its focus on its main character and Potebnya’s performance as Dana. As the film unspools, more details about her sister’s life are unfurled, both revealing that she wasn’t the angel her mother thought she was and how dangerous the Blue Whale Challenge is. A list of texts also shows how the relationship between Dana and her mother has deteriorated; this is a woman who is so emotionally broken that she doesn’t even take the time to talk face to face with her daughter. It all leads to the aforementioned scene where Dana struggles to complete a task before Ada Morte stabs her mother to death; viewers can pinpoint the fear in Potebnya’s eyes, and the shaky camerawork adds to the tension as her fingers fly over the keys.

The film also introduces a budding romance between Dana and a fellow game participant, which starts off as one of the lighter elements of the film before delving into the mystery surrounding Ada Morte’s identity. This is where the impact of social media is most felt: when one of the tasks calls for Dana to don an outfit that consists of paper and tape and walk around the school, most of her classmates either denounce her as a “slut” or proposition her for sex.  Her new friend is the only person who understands what she’s going through-granted he has to play the game too, but it feels genuine. Some of my friends have managed to form friendships and relationships via connecting over the Internet; it was one of those connections that led to me writing for this site. Surprisingly, both #Blue_Whale and The Mitchells VS The Machines have something in common; they understand that technology isn’t inherently evil. It’s a tool that can be used for both good, and ill-and the ending hammers that home with a tense rooftop confrontation between an unexpected collection of characters.

#Blue_Whale acts as a parable for the pitfalls of social media and how online validation can be extremely addictive, leading to a collection of chilling moments along the way. It also proves that the found footage genre of film isn’t in any danger of dying out. Horror fans will definitely find things to love about this film, though the subject matter it tackles is fairly heavy and not for the faint of heart.

#Blue_Whale premiered at the Fantasia International Film Festival 2021.


#Blue_Whale
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

#Blue_Whale acts as a parable for the pitfalls of social media and how online validation can be extremely addictive, leading to a collection of chilling moments along the way. It also proves that the found footage genre of film isn’t in any danger of dying out. Horror fans will definitely find things to love about this film, though the subject matter it tackles is fairly heavy and not for the faint of heart.