Frightfest Glasgow: #ChadGetsTheAxe (2023)

Director: Travis Bible

Running Time: 83 Minutes

Starring: Michael Bonini, Spencer Harrison Levin, Taneisha Figueroa, Cameron Vitosh

A recent trend that's appeared in horror cinema is influencer horror, where those who desire social media fame through any means possible find themselves reckoning with the supernatural price of their actions. Following in the wake of Deadstream, Dashcam, and Death of a Vlogger, co-writer/director Travis Bible adapts his 2019 short of the same name to feature-length (bucking the trend with a title that doesn't begin with a D).

The opener follows Spicy Steve (Michael Bonini), a streamer exploring an abandoned paper factory that's supposedly haunted by the murderous janitor's spirit. His audience-appeasing jokes are interruped when the tables are turned, and Steve is humiliated after a prank from fellow streamer Chad (Spencer Harrison Levin).

The recorded experience clearly affects Steve as he's name-called and bullied in the aftermath, although he's drawn back into Chad's world after being promised to take the lead on a new video. The pair team up with a streamer couple to visit Devil's Manor, the former home of a satanic cult responsible for many kidnappings and murders. Their initial levity is lessened as the situation worsens, leaving the influencers to wonder whether this is an extravagant prank, or if the scenario is worse than they realize.

Bible and co-writer Kemerton Hargrove take aim at streamer culture, highlighting the moral boundaries people cross for views. This is best exemplified with the discovery of a hanging corpse, leading Chad and Steve to make disrespectful jokes in a scene that mirrors Logan Paul's video at suicide forest. This also highlights something the characters do throughout, ignoring clear warnings in favour of raising their viewcount. When a streamer has the chance to escape, their choice to reconsider out of fear people will find her boring is a pointed look at the fears held within such a dangerous situation.

The story is depicted via screenlife, which shows the film through the character's phones as they livestream, while switching to other apps. It's a terrific utilization of the scenario that's heightened with live comments about when it's acceptable to discuss spoilers, and people hoping Chad won't survive the night. There's also a true-crime podcaster who gives vital info regarding the satanic cult, although it's there for viewers as the characters are too self-involved to take notice of this.

While there's numerous laughs to be had, there's also unbearable tension throughout the horrific moments. As subtle scares are effectively utilized, the "less is more" approach works wonders to deliver the spookiness. Central to it all is Chad, rambunctious and desiring attention in ways which resemble a hyperactive child. Levin effectively captures how the streamer is constantly playing up his persona for the cameras, which leaves him disbelieved during his time of need. The alienation is highlighted when those he's supposedly closest to offer no help, and effectively captures how Bible has crafted a feature-length version of the term "fuck around and find out."

#ChadGetsTheAxe made its International Premiere at Frightfest Glasgow