What, really, can be called authentic in a time of social media personas and rampant reality television? For Kurt Kunkle, it’s live-streaming The Lesson, a twisted mission acted out as a Spree driver, a taxi service similar to Uber. Desperate for more views on his social media feeds, he gives the people what he thinks they want – something akin to live snuff films under the guise of extreme authenticity.

Joe Keery, as Kurt, is a hundred miles away from Stranger Things‘ adorable babysitter Steve Harrington. A pathetic narcissist with a terrifying self-aware sneer, all that matters to him is online attention, and at any cost. There’s an existential kind of horror at play here, with director Eugene Kotlyarenko turning our digital addictions into something vampiric. Kurt is like an Arthur Fleck for the digital age, his isolation from his supposed peers online – influencers – fuelling his need for notoriety. “If you’re not documenting yourself, it’s simple, you don’t exist,” he says. But the documentation doesn’t seem as important as the obsession with having an audience.

Cinema is slowly catching up with what the internet is actually like, and while Spree captures moods of desensitisation and cynicism, the film itself is all over the place. As The Lesson begins, tense and ramshackle car journeys effectively establish Kurt’s scary/sincere dichotomy. As the movie widens up, it loses control of that fine balance. The relationship with Kurt’s dad (David Arquette) needs more time, and Jessie (Sasheer Zamata) is undersold for much of the movie given her significance as both a point of obsession for Kurt and a juxtaposition against his very particular need to be viewed.

Ideas of anonymity, notoriety and authenticity are present and teased in Spree, but they’re buried beneath middling shocks and underdeveloped relationships, leaving it as memorable as one of Kurt’s live-streams.



CAST: Joe Keery, Sasheer Zamata, David Arquette, Kyle Mooney, Mischa Barton

DIRECTOR: Eugene Kotlyarenko

WRITERS: Eugene Kotlyarenko, Gene McHugh

SYNOPSIS: Kurt Kunkle, a rideshare driver thirsty for followers, has figured out a deadly plan to go viral. As his disturbing livestream is absurdly embraced by the social media hellscape, a comedian emerges as the only hope to stop this rampage.