When a warped shut-in discovers the webcam girl he is obsessed with lives down the hall, the results can be heavily assumed. However, that is the strongest feature of Jared Bratt and Vincent Pun’s latest dramatic offering, based off their 10-minute short of the same name. Though a formulaic plot does undercut the mystery, it lends the filmmakers freedom to explore dread in a darkly pitiable tone. Pushed by its stellar production design and visuals, Streamer manages to crawl behind your eyes and worm in the back of your brain far longer than should be healthy.
An opening monologue by the 28-year-old Jared (Bratt) where he pontificates on his virginity and desire for a girlfriend, almost lost me. It is inspired by the similar online video by Elliot Rodger, responsible for the 2014 Isla Vista killings, and it comes off as hokey with Bratt’s initial acting leaving much to be desired. However, immediately following this single-shot opener, the majority of the film had me spellbound.
“…plays as if Peeping Tom, Maniac, Vertigo and Welcome to the NHK were all thrown into a blender.”
Jared is a recluse who spends his days working out, eating fast food, drinking booze, smoking weed, and watching one particular camgirl, who calls herself Ivy (Tanya Lee). While in the laundry room of his building one evening, Jared runs into Ivy and comes to discover she had moved down the hall six months prior. As they form a budding friendship, his mind increasingly unhinges from hallucinations and delusions. Outwardly a shy filmmaker and photographer, his increasing fixation to console Ivy’s online and offline personalities (to make her his girlfriend) rapidly degrades his mental and physical health.
Multiple aspect ratios slushed together with swirling color palettes construct an emotionally sinister image, and add subconscious and existential depth to each scene, playing with the fabric of Jared’s reality. Sublime cinematography, hallmarked by long lense framing and smooth tracking shots, push almost every moment of Jared’s disillusionment, confusion, and obsession to extraordinarily uncomfortable levels. Almost all of the aforementioned elements were crafted by Bratt and Pun, and exhibit their overwhelming dedication and sense of atmosphere.
Nancy Voong’s effects makeup design sells the each stage of the characters’ mental states shockingly well, feeling reminiscent of Esther Villar’s work in The Machinist. Dante Winkler’s sound design effectively scratches around your brain with creaks and clicks, almost too immersive into the unsavory protagonist’s mind. Jen Gorman’s score is a low-toned, resonant growl that ebbs and flows seamlessly, almost subconsciously.
“…almost too immersive into the unsavory protagonist’s mind.”
Though Bratt and Pun’s editing is mostly taut, inventive, and lovingly off-kilter, the second half of the runtime is plagued by lackluster-near-nonexistent segues between scenes, to where it becomes a cluttering of vignettes rather than a complete conclusion. The redubbing of several scenes is painfully noticeable, and despite the cast’s best efforts, feels awkward and unnatural. However, the performances by Bratt and Lee are primarily solid, supported by their substantial on-screen chemistry and obvious commitment to the material.
This plays as if Peeping Tom, Maniac, Vertigo and Welcome to the NHK were all thrown into a blender, and it’s damn impressive for what it manages to accomplish. Though a retread of many conventional psychological themes, Streamer flips these familiar tropes on their ear to create a uniquely fresh and thrilling experience.
Streamer (2017) Directed by Jared Bratt, Vincent Pun. Written by Jared Bratt, Vincent Pun. Starring Jared Bratt, Tanya Lee, Brennan Pedde.
★★★½ / ☆☆☆☆☆