Thursday 13 December 2018

Dark Film Review: Nerve

Dark Film Review: Nerve

Review by Casey Douglass


Nerve is one of those films that has been sitting on my Freeview recorder for a little while now. It sounded interesting, but I was just a bit “meh” about actually watching it. Luckily, the other day, I did finally decide to give it a chance, and I’m happy to report that I liked it far more than I expected to.

The Nerve of the title is an online dare game, one in which the participants have to complete dares for money, unless they “bail” or “fail”. When the participant signs up to be a Player (you can also be a Watcher), the Nerve platform harvests all of the online information about you that it can, which may or may not be used for your dares. If you are afraid of spiders, as an example, and you’ve posted about it, well, expect creepy goodness crawling up your arm at some point. Some dares also seem to be crowd-sourced, with people voting on what someone needs to do. There are also various rules, like it has to be filmed on the player’s own phone to count. Another rule is to keep Nerve secret, because “snitches get stitches”.

Vee (Emma Roberts) is a shy, geeky highschooler who lacks the confidence to make any of the important decisions in her life. Her friend Sydney (Emily Meade), tells her about Nerve and wants her to be one of her Watchers, as the more Watchers someone has, the higher up the ranking table they get. After Vee witnesses Sydney doing her dare, flashing her naked backside as a cheerleader at a football game, the pair have a falling out when Syndey embarrasses Vee with the guy she fancies. So, like any normal person, Vee rides home on her bicycle and decides to opt into a sketchy online dare platform. As you do. Completing her first dare brings her into contact with Ian (Dave Franco), and that’s contact beyond a mere “Howdi!” Their paths are then entwined for the rest of the film, as they both work together to complete the various tasks set them by Nerve.

Nerve is a slick film. From the computer graphics of watching people through see-thru mobiles and computers, to the various message exchanges and video recording that goes on, it all has a nice polished, technological aesthetic. Even Ian’s motorbike and various stretches of street lighting glow in neon colours. It just made the whole film quite “punchy” in the visual sense, and I enjoyed this. I didn’t really enjoy the soundtrack though, and in places I found it quite annoying, but that’s just due to the music not being to my taste.

The narrative flows along nicely, although there were a few scenes in which I questioned how much Vee could change in such a short period of time. I wouldn’t say that it wasn’t feasible, but certain things felt a bit overly contrived, the breakups and make-ups sometimes occurring in such a frictionless way, it just didn't feel real. I did like the interplay between Vee and Ian though, and the way that the dares tended to escalate. Many of the dares featured public embarrassment, and I could feel myself cringing as the characters had to navigate their way through them. The ending was relatively satisfying too, although for a film called Nerve, it felt like it played it a bit too safe for my liking.

In a way, the true star of the film for me was Nerve, the platform. A system that can scrape personal information from your social media profiles and other online activity, crunch it all and then turn it into a twisted dare-based challenge system? How creepy and brilliant at the same time. The topic of fear and daring to do stuff is also something almost anyone will connect with, the anxiety that pushing your comfort zone can bring, and the everyday feelings of “Oh, if I’d just taken that chance to say hello to that person, but I can’t”. Add people filming you as you try to do that very thing, and a whole new level of stress gets added to things. As I said, you’ll probably cringe along to a good few of the dares, and that’s not even mentioning the ones that put people in physical danger.

Nerve was a film that I really enjoyed, and one that fits into stuff that I find really interesting. It aligns with some of the other books and films that I’ve enjoyed, such as The Diceman by Luke Rhinehart, which is a guy basically “self-daring” with dice, and even non-fiction stuff like Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang, a book written by someone who filmed himself getting rejected so that he could challenge himself to overcome it. Add in the technology aspect to Nerve, and I found it to be quite gripping.

If you’ve not seen Nerve, check it out if you get the chance to.

Film Title: Nerve
Starring: Emma Roberts, Dave Franco
Genre: Thriller
Directors: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Released: 2016
Distributor: Lionsgate