Tag Archives: Cyberbullying

Movie Review: #Horror (2015)

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Rating: D/ A failure on almost every conceivable level, #Horror has one of the most confused scripts I’ve ever had the displeasure of encountering. It’s a woeful movie that doesn’t know what it wants to be; a slasher movie? a meaningful teen flick about cyberbullying? A satire? The movie just kind of drags on until it becomes stagnant and features a group of loathsome characters that do nothing to arouse our curiosity or engage our sympathy. Yes, in this movie, I wished bloody homicide on a group of twelve-year-old girls. Thirty minutes in,  I wanted everybody dead, and fast. Continue reading Movie Review: #Horror (2015)

Disconnect (2012)

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Every day, untold millions of people will use the worldwide web to chat with friends, watch vines and videos, and reconnect with family. Whether Facebooking, Tweeting, or Skyping, most of these people will not see the truly bent side that sometimes lingers behind the web’s glossy facade. “Disconnect” is a movie featuring a trio of loosely interconnected stories casting the spotlight on three characters  who get a chance to experience the internet’s unsavory dark edges.

Cindy (Paula Patton) is a neglected wife who’s just suffered an unthinkable tragedy. Ben (Jonah Bobo) is an Emo teen who gets Catfished by two mocking schoolmates. Nina (Andrea Riseborough) is a reporter hungry for a story, who finds her pitch on the ‘net in a handsome male sex worker Kyle (Max Theirot.) All three people are, among other things, looking for a way to bond with their fellow man, but they all at once find themselves caught up in dysfunctional, emotionally hurtful situations.

In the wake of disaster, Ben’s father Rich (Jason Bateman) looks for the faceless perpetrator behind a devastating prank, while Cindy and her Ex-Marine husband Derek (Alexander Skarsgard) face a failing marriage and a potential identity thief (Michael Nyqvist.) Nina balances her desire for fame with her need for forgiveness, but when it comes to betrayal, how much can be forgiven?

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Sometimes didactic yet relevant, real, and so well acted, “Disconnect” might do for the vast, mysterious internet what “Psycho” did for showers. Just when you thought it was safe to log into a chatroom… The key element here, though, is not fear, but human tragedy. The cast is uniformly good, even Jonah Bobo as a bullying victim (the annoying little kid from “Zathura”- who knew!) and Alexander Skarsgard, known best as sexy vampire Eric, who- I must admit- was wooden as usual, but in this case his inert acting style fit the character.

The characters here aren’t super well-developed, but they’re portrayed with steady enough brush strokes that you find yourself liking and sympathizing with them. These are people you know. These are people you’ve chatted with, worked with, gone to school with, occupying a mundane and instantly identifiable world but fighting for their sanities, their reputations, even their very lives- their sufferings coldly recorded in the dark halls of cyberspace.

The message presented here is clear- the internet does not fill the void of a life half lived. Also, watch out, you never know who you’re sharing your secrets with in a chatroom or on a message board. It is implied by the three sad yet somewhat hopeful ‘stories’ that we are living in a society that barely notices each other, that passes over meaningful human interaction for conversations with people we’ll most likely never meet, who might not be who they say they are (unlike actual people, who are always %100 legit :P) It’s a message you might not agree with, but the movie is worth watching and pondering.

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Ben X (2007)

Ben X, Belgian director Nic Balthazar’s film debut, is an ambitious drama exploring the autistic mind and how far harassment can go before the victim loses control.

At the beginning, we are introduced to Ben (superbly played by Greg Timmermans), a teenage boy with Asperger’s Syndrome who lives with his well-meaning mother and younger brother. Ben spends all his free time playing Archlord, a fantasy role-playing game where he becomes Ben X and plays alongside Scarlitte, a teenage girl who is impressed by his gaming skills. The game gives him a sense of purpose in a world that becomes increasingly out of control.

Ben’s life at school, quite simply, is hell. He is relentlessly tormented by two repugnant teenage boys. His teachers try to help him but are ineffectual. The situation worsens when an embarrassing prank perpetrated on him is videotaped and posted all over the internet.

Feeling that he has no where to turn, he hides what happened from his family and teachers and becomes increasingly disturbed and suicidal. Finally, close to breaking point, Ben decides to meet with Scarlitte, who is interested in visiting him in real life. Together with Scarlitte, his divorced father, and his desperate mother, he comes up with a bizarre plan to get back at his tormenters.

I waited a long time for this movie, and as it generally is in this case, was disappointed. Which isn’t to say thatBen X is a bad film. On the contrary, it has many good qualities. The main thing that struck me was that this is one of the first times a character on the autistic spectrum takes center stage and is treated as a person, not a plot device. Often, the character with autism is used to evoke feelings from the other people in the movie or to teach them what is really important in life.

This film, without avoiding the family’s perception of the situation, concentrates on Ben and his reactions to what’s happening around him. Secondly, the acting in Ben X is top-notch, especially from Greg Timmermans and Marijke Pinoy, as Ben’s mother. Greg Timmermans has excellent facial expressions and mannerisms, and in his and the directors hands, the main character becomes a real person.

Many scenes and situations in Ben X, however, are very melodramatic and over-the-top, but the ending is its greatest weakness. Alternately bizarre and unrealistic, it detracts from an otherwise good movie. The director seems to think that neatly tying things up is more important than realism, and it shows.

The film builds up a great deal of suspense and a foreboding that something terrible will happen, but seems to wimp out toward the end. I don’t enjoy depressing endings, but I felt that the conclusion wasn’t believable at all. I am bound to cut this film some slack, because there are so few movies about high-functioning autism and because I waited a long time to watch it. Although I think it was ultimately disappointing, it also did many things right and tried to do what most directors haven’t done effectively before.