Social networks, for the online and addicted, already take up a lot of time and brain space — but what might happen in a few more years, when the interfaces intrude even more on “real life”? That’s the idea taken to the point of farce with Status Kill, written and directed by Drawn by Pain creator Jesse Cowell.
In the three-part premiere, Denton Sparks (Ayinde Howell) is a deadly assassin hunting The Spam King (Chris Ryan), an ex-CIA agent and rogue spammer. But Sparks has some time to kill, and because this is the not-too-distant future, he has instant access to his social network of choice, TweetFacester (subtle). Will his online drama complicate his offline mission? Of course it will.
Production values are solid and star Howell really carries the project, proving believable as both a deadly assassin and a social media dork with an e-girlfriend he’s never met. However, the pacing proves to be a major handicap: The comedy behind the Status Kill premise takes well into the second episode to kick in, and the first episode is cluttered with unnecessary setup about the Spam King’s origins. With a project of this type and length, I don’t really need to know why the bad guy’s a bad guy — if the goal is to mock social networks, then just tell me the bad guy’s a bad guy and get onto the good stuff.
The music was also a problem; the moody theme, while well-produced, was completely off-sync with the tone of the project and did a lot to distract from potentially funny moments. However, once the spoofing of social networks (especially how annoying certain notifications can be) really got started, Status Kill clicked nicely.
Visual effects artist Chris Dimino literally receives second billing in the opening credits (right behind Howell) and it’s deserved. The rendering of a futuristic user interface and the social network used on it is flawlessly integrated and proves essential to selling the premise. Making online interactions work in a cinematic context is a challenge, and Status Kill‘s use of both text and voice to sell Howell’s web activity stands out as a strong example of how to do it right.
Status Kill feels a lot more like a fifteen-minute short film chopped up for web distribution than a real and proper web series, and as a result the slicing and dicing doesn’t do it any favors. But taken as a whole, it’s a lot easier to like.
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