#BLUE_WHALE is a Russian horror movie about the Blue Whale Challenge. Based on a true story and shot in the Screenlife format. Produced by the screenlife pioneer and visual master, Timur Bekmambetov. Read our full #Blue_Whale movie review here!
#BLUE_WHALE is a new Russian horror movie shot in the Screenlife format. Almost like the found footage or POV style, only here you see everything through the main character’s computer or smartphone screen. This is a style that has become increasingly popular as a storytelling device.
Mostly because it works well to create a realistic and engaging setting. For this new horror mystery, the plot revolves around the Blue Whale Challenge. And yes, it is based on a true story (more on that later), which makes it even scarier.
Continue reading our #Blue_Whale movie review below. We screened this movie at Fantasia International Film Festival 2021.
#Blue_Whale is based on a true story
Yes, the story in #Blue_Whale, which revolves around the Blue Whale challenge, is based on actual cybercrimes that occurred in Eastern Europe. These crimes could be responsible for over 130 deaths. Especially when combined with the terrible effects of the Japanese Momo hoax.
However, the actual mystery element of #Blue_Whale is something that most genre fans will guess way ahead of the big reveal. Still, there are gruesome events following this reveal that worked exceptionally well. Overall, this horror mystery does have some amazing moments of pure dread and horror.
Anna Potebnya is efficient and believable in the lead as the teenage girl Dana, who wants to uncover the reasons behind her sister’s death.
Also, whether I find this story believable or not, events very similar to the ones shown in #Blue_Whale have actually happened. Also, plenty of true-crime documentaries have shown how teens – and adults for that matter – can find themselves manipulated online. Very easily! Just watch literally any episode of Catfish.
The Screenlife storytelling format
I’ve been a fairly big fan of movies shot in the screenlife storytelling format. Especially as done in Searching, where it feels very organic and real. I’ve liked “screenlife” just as I’ve enjoyed the whole found footage format. From the iconic The Blair Witch Project (1999) to Cloverfield (2008), and the Paranormal Activity movies that began in 2007.
Timur Bekmambetov is the co-producer of this movie, which is very appropriate since he pioneered the Screenlife storytelling format. Profile (2018), Searching (2018), and the Unfriended films. He directed the first and produced the latter ones.
However, “screenlife” and “found footage” both have some very clear guidelines that must be followed: First and foremost, the actions of characters have to feel real. That means there won’t always be perfect lighting (especially when hiding in the dark) and no filming yourself perfectly centered while you’re running for your life.
#Blue_Whale suffers from both these sins. Just as Safer at Home (2021) did. When you find yourself thinking “nobody would film themselves this way”, then the illusion of it being “real” is broken. Just as a found footage movie that suddenly has footage that seems to come from an outside source.
A movie like the Shudder pandemic megahit Host (2020) managed to avoid these traps and is so much better for it.
#Blue_Whale premiered at Fantasia
#BLUE_WHALE is written and directed by Anna Zaytseva. This is her feature film debut, but she’s already proven her skills with short films. She’s won an impressive 16 awards on the festival circuit for her shorts.
In many ways, this “Screenlife” storytelling format has become a bit of a trademark for Timur Bekmambetov. Sometimes it works wonderfully, but I prefer when he focuses on his brilliant visual style for horror and action movies.
After all, he was the director of Night Watch (2004), Wanted (2008) starring Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy plus Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012). All three are movies that have been rightfully praised for mind-blowing visual effects and a very distinct style.
I’d recommend watching this movie if you like the screenlife storytelling format or if you’re curious about the Blue Whale challenge. It’s entertaining and well-made. I just didn’t find the basic storytelling came across as being realistic. Also, it felt too long.
We would give it a rating of 2½ if we did half-stars, but I can’t round it up to three. However, it did show lots of potential!
We screened #Blue_Whale at Fantasia 2021 where it had its world premiere.
DIRECTOR: Anna Zaytseva
WRITER: Evgenia Bogomyakova, Olga Klemesheva, Anna Zaytseva
CAST: Anna Potebnya, Yekaterina Stulova, Polina Vataga, Timofey Yeletsky
A provincial Russian town is ravaged by a wave of inexplicable teen suicides. Rebellious and sharp-witted schoolgirl Dana grieves for her younger sister, a once-happy kid who suddenly withdrew and stepped in front of a train. Desperate to learn what happened, Dana explores her sister’s online history, discovering a sinister social-media game that encourages youths to take an escalating series of self-harm challenges – 50 tasks in 50 days. Beginning with actions designed to alienate them from friends and family, the challenge breaks its victims lives apart to push them past any point of return. Hungry for answers and out for revenge, Dana registers for the game, opening a doorway into the cruelest of hidden online worlds. One that will jeopardize the lives of everyone she cares about.