Fantasia 2021: Our Review of ‘#Blue_Whales’

Fantasia 2021: Our Review of ‘#Blue_Whales’

TW: Suicide, Self-Harm.

If We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is the Hardcore of what I’m loosely dubbing “Internet Challenge Cinema,” then #Blue_Whales is the 8mm of such films—lurid, kind of silly and deliriously engaging.

Timur Bekmambetov has a made living off of producing a number of Screenlife films, which entirely take place on the screens of devices; some notable examples include Searching and Unfriended. Here, he produces the debut feature of director Anna Zaytseva, which centres on the investigation of a young woman named Dana (Anna Potebyna) into the circumstances surrounding the suspicious suicide of her younger sister. To do so, Dana winds up taking part in an underground online challenge, which is run exclusively through a Facebook knock-off. This challenge involves a series of progressively more intense tasks that range from self-enforced public humiliation to graphic self-harm.

I briefly mentioned We’re All Going to the World’s Fair above, because there is definitely a connection between the two films. Whereas World’s Fair’s thematics are more realized, #Blue_Whales’ are not. Unfortunately, Zaytseva’s film loses itself inside the luridness of its own plot, and cannot really get at why the Internet can be a frightening and isolating place for young people.

However, the construction of the story is undeniably gripping. As Dana gets closer and closer to solving the mystery, the game’s intensity ramps up. We have a feeling that Dana is likely to wind up in some serious danger, but the mystery element of the film keeps us morbidly curious. In a sense, this mimics the fascination that people have with internet challenges. Our curiosity to get to the heart of what a Blue Whale is, overwhelms our common sense. And when that happens, is there really any way back?

This post was written by
Thomas Wishloff is currently an MA student at York University. He is new to the Toronto Film Scene, but has periodically written and podcasted for several now defunct ventures, and has probably commented on a forum with you at some point. The ex-Edmontonian has been known to enjoy a good board game, and claims to know the secret to the best popcorn in the world.
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