The next day, outside of the school building, Mia asks what happened. Chelsea tells her, then Dylan shows up, and the three of them sit down on the grass. While the boyfriend and girlfriend make out, Chelsea gets out her phone and texts Brad. A school employee of some kind shows up and takes Chelsea’s phone. And at the end of the day, her mom needs to show up to the school to get it back.
I have roughly a million questions about this. First off, the school has clearly not started for the day; or, they are on lunch. So, if Chelsea’s phone use is not disrupting her teachers, classmates, and the like, why was it taken away? The other two are making out, which means they are also not paying attention to the uhh…uhh…the sunshine? Again, school is actively not in session, and they are outside.
Then, why does Chelsea’s mom need to get the phone back for her? None of how this plays out makes sense. It leads to her having her phone taken away for a few days. Now, I know what you’re thinking, but no, Chelsea not having a phone plays absolutely no factor in her abduction. However, when they meet face to face, Brad has ample opportunity to take her phone before he kidnaps her. All of which makes this reality breaking stupidity inconsequential and meaningless. And that means it stands out all the more because it is the only example of such awkward, forced writing to be found anywhere in Do Not Reply.
“…made the film as a cautionary tale about the alarming number of social media abductions being reported…
Seriously, aside from that, the Woltosz family members have written a sharp and smart script. The reasoning behind Brad’s terrible nature is well explored, and its exploration of mental illness avoids a good number of cliches. This is a big one, as Brad’s problems are all the worse because there is no attempt to make him sympathetic. He wasn’t beaten by his parents or anything like that. He is simply a man with a monstrous desire and no impulse control.
Chelsea’s frustrations at her home life and how she perceives her friend is abandoning her makes sense. Therefore, the normally smart girl so gleefully accepting the adoration of a stranger also works in context. The other Sadies at the house are well-fleshed as well, as is Brad’s deteriorating mental health as the movie progresses.
Amanda Arcuri shines as Chelsea. As she tries to manipulate Brad to escape, Arcuri sells the fear, cunning, and ever so slight amount of hope perfectly. Jackson Rathbone has really proven himself as of late, and this is the best he’s been. He makes Brad utterly creepy and terrifying without becoming a cartoon character. That’s not as easy as one might think, as the character is prone to extremes. But Rathbone is menacing in the role because he knows that going big isn’t always the right choice. When he tells Chelsea that she needs to head downstairs or he’ll throw her headfirst himself, he does not yell. That makes him much more realistic and scary.
Do Not Reply effectively warns of the potential danger of random social media meetups. While it strives to be as realistic as possible, a few cracks do show on occasion. Aside from that, though, the movie works brilliantly. The cast is dynamic and engaging, the characters are well rounded, and the direction is quite atmospheric.