Studio: Eryde Productions
Director: Daniel Lascar, Alessandro Antonaci, Stefano Mandala
Writer: Daniel Lascar, Alessandro Antonaci, Stefano Mandala
Producer: Simone Offredo, Francesco Scrufari
Stars: Carola Cudemo, Simone Valentino, Erica Landolfi, Simone Moretto, Micol Damilano, Alice Piano, Rocco Marazzita, Daniele Marmi
A mysterious cellphone app capable of showing ghosts curses users to die unless they pass the app to someone else every 24 hours.
Rumor has it a medium might have created You Die as a means for clients to communicate with the dead. Whatever its origins were, the app became a technological terror not seen since Sadako’s viral videotape.
You Die enables users to see ghosts through a cellphone camera, which sounds enticing until the phone is no longer necessary to encounter waking world phantoms. You Die also comes with a 24-hour countdown. If the timer expires, the app makes good on its name. You can reset the curse’s clock by getting someone else to download You Die. But you have to do so every single day.
That’s the situation facing Asia, a girl-next-door previously preoccupied with wondering whether or not she should let her guy pal out of the friend zone. Now she has ghosts grabbing at her while friends and family initially pass off You Die as an alternate-reality video game, and then as a product of Asia’s paranoia. Not only does no one believe she is haunted, Asia doesn’t know how to handle killing someone else, even though it’s the only way to survive.
I can’t begin to imagine how Apple ever allowed You Die onto iTunes, much less what kind of paranormal programming would be required to produce such an app in the first place. Neither of those head-scratchers even makes the list of Top 100 lacking licks of logic in “You Die” though. Then again, the film operates on the same kind of preposterous premise that’s powered a dozen or more J-horror movies about killer computer electronics, so I suppose one should simply roll with it.
While we’re delineating regional differences, I’ll propose that if “You Die” was an English-language movie, its average acting and inane, underwritten script would float the film fast into a forgettable DTV gutter. But being Italian, “You Die” has an unusual taste that makes its foreign flavor oddly alluring.
Specifically, the movie comes coated in slight sexuality that could be commonplace for European senses, but smells strangely sleazy to American noses. It’s 50/50 if Eva, the first person introduced, is intended to be a hooker. Her black boots and fishnet stockings under denim Daisy Dukes don’t make that implication alone. But the weird way she interacts with Milo, who ends up passing the curse to Asia, as though he could be a client instead of a friend sends a certain signal. If not that, then the way Eva seduces a seemingly random man into public penetration on the hood of a car, which is her distraction strategy for acquiring his cellphone, certainly does.
Later, when Asia contemplates killing a random man of her own, she too poses as a prostitute to lure an unsuspecting john. This comes after taking her sister-in-law’s suggestion of a spontaneous bubble bath to calm down from her latest harrowing haunting.
None of this is off-putting. But casual placement of such situations amusingly plays as being from a different mindset.
That’s about the only distinct detail “You Die” has going for it as far as unique appeal goes. The low-budget look, cardboard characters, and scant story draw much more attention to themselves.
Ghosts dress in off-the-rack clothing and sport theatrical ghoul makeup like Lon Chaney ensuring the back row can see his spooky face clearly. Other than rare static interference when a cellphone camera comes too close, the phantoms stay pretty plain people simply standing still in bright lights. Next to nothing about their imagery appears visually frightening.
Even the You Die notification noise is disappointingly anemic. When you hear “The Purge” siren, you instantly know what the sound signifies. We hear the app’s audio alert countless times. “You Die” has a silver platter opportunity to make a marketable mark in our memory banks yet only comes up with a crackle.
Two separate characters, Marco and Mike, literally do nothing but burp up backstory so Act Three can shift into gear. Marco fulfills the usual IT tech nerd role, complete with clicking and clacking keyboard strokes as he works his way around the dark web collecting exposition for Asia. Mike answers curse-related questions with vague answers that don’t explain anything, not that You Die’s “rules” make sense anyway. How is the curse supposed to spread if one of its instructions is to not tell anyone about passing it to someone else every 24 hours?
“You Die” feels like half of a movie that ends abruptly because no one thought past the broad basics of clichéd horror to plot a path toward originality. It’s a watered-down recycling of “The Ring,” except with less intrigue, no twist, and an unsatisfactory resolution destined to frustrate anyone expecting more meat to an emaciated mystery. “You Die” could have been cool, but never attempts to be anything other than routine.
Review Score: 40