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“HOOKED UP” (Film Review)

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If patterns in the studio and independent level are any indications, it seems that found footage is finally descending from the horror zeitgeist. Yet in doing so, many assorted stragglers in the subgenre are finally rising to the surface and, oddly enough, many of these found footage titles are the ones that never quite fit into the genre’s expectations. And luckily for HOOKED UP, the found footage aspect is merely just a conduit for a genuinely tight and terrifying horror tale, and any expectations one might have for HOOKED UP (and the various familiar horror elements) are effortlessly turned on their head.

For the unfamiliar, HOOKED UP starts generically enough: two friends, one reeling from a recent break-up, go to Barcelona to party and get laid, only to find themselves trapped in a house by a woman with sinister intentions. Some might rush to categorize HOOKED UP as a revenge film or something HOSTEL-esque, but those people would be dead wrong, with the film definitely amusing some expertly unpredictable directions. In fact, any moments that might seem familiar are used only as a set-up for a subversive payoff, and horror fans will be pleased by the amount of those payoffs that end in bloodshed, scares and some truly haunting imagery. And for cinephiles, HOOKED UP introduces hints of a bigger story once the horror sets in, allowing more substance than your average found footage story.

And speaking of the average found footage film, HOOKED UP cleverly avoids many of the subgenre’s more annoying tropes while working to its stronger elements. For instance, HOOKED UP is unafraid to indulge in showing its horrifying antagonist, allowing her to be front and center during the film’s most visceral moments. And the use of suspense in the film is only as strong as the eventual payoff, and rather than go back to the jump scare well over and over, the film expertly makes its reveals at moments most conducive to the story. To that point, by investing in story and characters, HOOKED UP gives characters you might actually care about, even going as far as avoiding some of the standard, obnoxious first-person dialogue.

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While not necessarily the best or most original film, director Pablo Larcuen brings a sense of variety and excitement to an all-too-familiar narrative perspective. The director understands pacing, especially when that pacing is brought to a nearly real-time endeavor, and constructs his reveals with a surprisingly effective precision, which is even more impressive considering the film was shot entirely on an iPhone. With that considered, the framing of the action, including the bloody and unsettling sequences, is equally as praise-worthy with cinematographer Daniel Fernandez-Abello working in solid tandem with editor Antonio-Gomez Pan. And the SFX from Raquel Guirro and Juan Serrano at Gadget FX effortlessly works, seamlessly allowing the gorier moments and uglier constructs to exist within the reality set up by the conceit.

Larcuen also delivers strong performances from his extremely limited cast, all of whom go above and beyond the expectations of a low-budget found footage flick. Even though he remains mostly behind the camera, Jonah Ehrenreich defies predictable horror logic as the comic-relief sidekick, using his innate charm to become the vulnerable lead and de-facto audience voyeur. Equally as impressive is Stephen Ohl, who goes from our lead into something much more interesting and engaging once he comes face to face with the scary reality of the situation. And special notice should also go to Natascha Wiese as Katia, our multi-faceted antagonist that is as terrifying as a sultry youth as she is as a full-on horror show, and especially impresses in the third act in a turn we’d dare not spoil here.

Even though the film isn’t going to win any awards and has its fair share of flaws (especially in logic), HOOKED UP is much better than many might think, and the fact that the film can be absolutely terrifying at points is a testament to that fact. With underrated talents both behind and in front of the camera, expectations shatter as HOOKED UP unfolds, appeasing fans of both suspenseful supernatural stories and bloody slashers as well. And the fact that so many authentic scares are drummed up from such meager means is another sign of the rise in independent horror, and that even the most tired subgenres can be revitalized with a risky approach.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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