[SPOILER ALERT] i-LIVED [SPOILER ALERT]
It’s day 17 of the Horror Movie Marathon! We’ve chosen another movie that appears to be based on technology. I’m afraid we are walking right back into #Horror territory.
Title is not rated and is available on Hulu. At the time of our viewing, it has the following online ratings:
Rotten Tomatoes NA% critics,19% audience
It’s evening and we watch with the lights down low. We both take notes throughout the movie. Afterward, we conduct a simultaneous interview/discussion via Google Docs.
Solee: In choosing i-LIVED, we were looking for something ridiculous and almost funny in its failure. We were nervous about going down the #Horror road again, though. Where do you think this movie falls? Are you glad we watched it?
Mikey: Well, I am thankful that it’s far from #Horror. It’s not what I expected, and it’s not much like other things. Well, I will say it reminded me a lot of a movie I watched last year called 13 Sins – a guy enters a contest where they progressively ask him to do more horrible things for larger rewards. He can (they say) quit anytime, but he forfeits all the money if he does. Kinda similar. How did you feel about this one?
Solee: I feel like it’s either not nearly as clever as it wants to be or I’m not nearly as clever as I want to be. I was left with this sense that I must be missing something because the overall story is so simple. But maybe that’s okay. It was told in a mostly intriguing, only occasionally annoying way. But it was pretty predictable.
Mikey: Now that occasional annoyance didn’t seem so occasional to me. My biggest problem with this movie was the dream sequences. Or rather the near-constant dream state. Basically the entire movie was an endless string of “horrible things are happening… WAIT it was a dream.” They intentionally made it almost impossible to tell what was dream and what was real, and they did it in such a way that it’s actually impossible to know what the true sequence of events is. He’d go to do something, but it turns out that was a dream, so did he do the thing (only without all the weirdness) or did he never do that thing? Who knows? In one case, we know – he does the same thing later (get a call from his dad where his mom sneaks up behind his dad) without the weirdness… so I guess that was a prophetic dream?
Solee: It was a threat from the app! I read a few reviews/comments that talked about how “not really demonic” the story was, but I disagree. It didn’t come right out and say “You’ve made a deal with the devil” in so many words, but that’s exactly what was happening.
Mikey: Absolutely. I bet if you pause the many shots of the EULA he refused to read, it literally said “you give us your soul” in it. They couldn’t be much more blatant!
Solee: YES! I thought about stopping to see if we could read any of it, but I didn’t care enough. I think that was one of the flaws of the story. The guy was a jerk even before he made a deal with the devil. So it wasn’t all that much of a shock that he was willing to steal a suit or punch someone or, frankly, even kill someone. He had the kind of slippery morals that made it possible for him to justify any decision.
Mikey: Yeah, the slippery morals of the kind of twerp who makes youtube videos that constantly repeat the last word over and over. “Welcome to J-Tech reviews, J-Tech reviews, J-Tech reviews PEW PEW!!!” Ugh, too real and too scary.
Solee: I will say that the actor who played Josh did so quite well. He was a believable twerp. And he did a good job of portraying the “this is wrong… but I really want my reward, so I guess I have to do it” attitude that Josh had. I didn’t actually have a problem with any of the actors or the writing. I think my issues mostly belong at the director’s feet.
Mikey: I’m not so impressed with the writing. First of all, my dream problem I already mentioned (but it could be that I was only dreaming it, and now I’m waking up to see the real movie!), but also this was as you said such a basic plot we’ve seen a hundred times. Strip away the dreams and you have: guy sells his soul for earthly rewards, gets the rewards as advertised, but doesn’t like the dark side he has to go through to get them, and (spoilers) kills himself to escape. Of course that’s no escape, it’s really just ending the rewards and starting the eternal torment early, so bad choice.
Solee: Oh… I totally didn’t make that connection before. You’re right! Just one more trick of the devil. So, we never actually see “The Devil”. But we see his minions: the guy (guys?) with the sunglasses, for example. What about Greta? Is Greta in league with the Devil or was she just another app user with questionable morals?
Mikey: I say we met the devil! Who did the sunglasses guys bring him to, with the horns? Devil!
Solee: Oh, right! I forgot about him.
Mikey: Exactly! He was a weak devil. I was very unimpressed. I don’t know about Greta. I think there was potential for a much more interesting story if they had gotten into the idea that all these users were kind of being used on each other, like if Greta were another user, like the guy he punched at the coffee house was. But they don’t clarify that. She kind of seems like a reluctant demon.
Solee: I’ve read that story! It’s called Needful Things by Stephen King. THAT would have made a much better movie.
Mikey: They did make a movie of that! Don’t think I’ve seen it… but yeah, that is exactly it!
Solee: We both commented about the dialogue in an early scene between Josh and his buddy, Bobby. They were bantering back and forth, slinging insults at each other. It felt very real and natural. Then later, I made a note about how horribly stilted the dialogue was when he was in the car with Greta and we were hearing just his very monotone side of a phone conversation. I’m not sure that I have a question about this… it was just an inconsistency that I noticed and which disappointed me.
Mikey: Yes, that scene stood out to the point that I almost feel like it was improvised entirely. I just got a really positive vibe from his friend (not that he seems like a good guy at all, but like a good character, and a good actor), and at that early point I thought things were going in a good direction. But then that scene turned out to be completely unique in the movie. Everything else was much more Saturday Afternoon Special quality.
Solee: Yep. His character got very flat and weird as things progressed. I don’t blame the actor for it… I think he was doing a good job of showing what was written for him. But it was a very strange choice. It didn’t really SAY anything. Josh could have been super high and excited by his new awesome life or he could have been super creeped out by what he had to do… but instead he was just… flat affect. There was nothing there.
Mikey: Maybe those two things canceled each other out. It seemed like they handled his rise to greatness in a very strange way. I think maybe it was budgetary – they couldn’t afford fancy stuff like you’d see in a big Hollywood movie, so it had to be kind of subtle. Although that’s realistic – when you make your first million, you don’t really move anywhere, it’s all kind of behind the scenes and eating out a little more often (or a lot). But you do pay your rent, Josh.
Solee: Ugh. The rent. What a jerk.
I found the last scene, which I think was supposed to show just how rich and amazing his life was, very off-putting. I know it was supposed to be that, too, but there just didn’t seem to be enough there to justify all the things he did. He had a big house and a fancy suit. But he’s sitting at the big dining room table all alone eating a bowl of soup that he obviously just heated up in the microwave himself. No servants. No gaggles of friends or pretend friends. And no girl… which was the WHOLE POINT.
Mikey: That’s my note: his very first wish (well, after a six-pack) was Greta. So why isn’t she part of that ‘fabulous’ life that he was droning through in misery? It seemed random and strange. I did like the tone of the final montage, the partying and wealth going on with him just completely stone dead in the middle of it all. Still, makes no sense to do that Greta-less. Maybe the point was he rejected her since she was pretty creepy and all, and he was miserable and in no mood for devil-obligated affection, but I think we needed to see that to know it.
Solee: Maybe we did see it. During the really confusing bit with the land-lady and the twin Gretas, there’s a scene where he’s sitting in the corner yelling at her to go away. I wasn’t sure that had really happened, but I guess it did?
Honestly, I wasn’t sure Greta really existed for most of the movie. I think the movie settled on yes, but I think there was more potential if she didn’t. Or if she was there, but wasn’t at all what he pictured in his mind.
Mikey: That dreamy unreality and mish-mash with reality is it. It just made the movie incomprehensible. I think they intended that effect, so we’re lost like he is, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Speaking of no Greta, it was again his buddy (who was not in the movie enough) who tried to dredge up a bit of interest in the plot with that idea. Josh asked his buddy, “Have you seen Greta?” when he arrived at a party, and the buddy said, “I don’t even know what she looks like!” so that was the one moment where you suddenly wonder if she exists. Of course, if she doesn’t, then I feel like the devil was violating the EULA (not that I read it either).
Solee: I’m sure SOMETHING existed. I think the Devil probably has some pretty hardcore law firms on his side to make sure he can get away with crap like that. Wolfram & Hart come to mind.
Mikey: I was gonna say that!
Solee: We’re totally geeks.
Mikey: But the EULA was the thing I kept giggling about. Like the whole plot basically hinged on the fact that no human being would ever bother reading a license agreement before agreeing to it. I think that’s a totally true thing that is really funny. I think they meant it more seriously than I took it, though. They just kinda got right in my wheelhouse with that one.
Solee: Yep. It struck really close to home for me, too. I mean, how many times have I clicked “Agree” on some ridiculously stupid app I downloaded? I could be signing away anything and I wouldn’t know it. But people think that ignorance is an excuse. I think most people think that they’re safe because they could just tell the judge, “I didn’t read it!” and everything will work out. Didn’t work that way with the Devil!
Mikey: I think the key is to make sure the app’s name backwards isn’t Devil. If it’s not, you’re fine.
Mikey: So, if you were running Soltech Reviews, how many stars would you give this app?
Solee: The app? Or the movie about the app?
Mikey: Well… let’s do the movie. It’s hard to judge an app that does good things but costs you your immortal soul (that’s even more than $2.99!).
Solee: I think most people would consider their immortal soul a cheap price to pay… until after the fact. I am going to give this movie 2.5 out of 5. I feel like it maybe earned a 3, but I just didn’t like it that much.
Mikey: And I didn’t like it that much I think, because I give it a 2! I didn’t hate it, but I think “enjoyed it” is a bar too high.
Solee: Yeah. It wasn’t horrible. We’ve SEEN horrible. But it was weak. It could have been done better. I want to send this movie to its room to think about what it has done.
Mikey: And that’s where I plan to take us next… with Needful Things!
Solee: REALLY!? That’s awesome. I love that story. Although, I know that, historically, Stephen King movie adaptations are not great. I’m still excited.
Mikey: Just beware, it’s going to cost us $2.99 to watch, which is nearly your immortal soul.
Solee: I guess I won’t know whether it’s a good deal until after we watch.
*If you have comments to leave specifically for Mikey, you can see this same interview/discussion posted here, on his website.