By MICHELLE MARCHANTE
Through the format of an online Truth or Dare game of sorts without the Truth portion, Nerve opens the floor for a dialogue about Internet anonymity, social media, the dangers of having your entire life publicly available for anyone to see with a click of a button and just how easily virtual reality can affect your everyday life.
Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, this techno-thriller adventure movie follows high school senior Venus “Vee” Delmonico (Emma Roberts) a wallflower who is pushed by her friends to join a “secret” online reality game called Nerve in order to prove that she is capable of taking risks. Wanting to prove that she is capable of handling a dare, Vee signs up as a Player but as the dares get progressively more dangerous and she gets progressively more popular, Vee finds herself becoming a prisoner of the game, where the only way out is to beat it.
WARNING: Some spoilers ahead.
While Nerve takes the dangers of having an online presence to the next level, as Vee and a mysterious stranger she meets named Ian (Dave Franco) find themselves to be at the games complete mercy, the movie is able to strike a chord with its targeted Millennial demographic, through its distinct filming and storyline.
The world of Nerve appears as a parallel of our own reality, with young adults vying to become the next big Internet sensation by becoming the most popular Player of the game and seemingly willing to do anything to get there much like how when the popular short video-streaming app, Vine, became a trending sensation with users doing pretty much everything and anything from funny to completely reckless stunts all in the name of the Vine.
Obi Nwosu, for example, planned to jump over a moving car in order to get Vine famous but was unable to successfully do so. Nwosu originally posted the video to Vine but then decided to take it down but once something is on the Internet the odds of it ever being fully deleted is slim to none, with Youtubers having copied the file and uploaded it themselves. Nwosu has since added this message to the end of the video: “Don’t do it for the Vine.”
Nerve’s reality based system essentially interferes with a person’s own personal life, as it eventually asks you to either do something illegal, dangerous or both under the guise that it’s just a game, much like how any game-online or not- can be harmless fun until someone takes it to the extreme.
Taking things to the extreme is something that humans are essentially good at and many times it happens without you ever realizing it.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and any other social media have become a daily-even hourly-obsession for many and while all of these platforms were created for a positive purpose, these type of easily addictable habits can be transformed from harmless to dangerous.
Pokemon Go, for example, was an augmented reality game that took the world by storm. The goal of the game was to get users outside and active, an essentially positive goal meant to stop users from being cooped up in the house in front of a screen all day and get some exercise and sun. It worked but the obsession with this game proved to be unhealthy, as players began to play nonstop, with players going out all night trying to capture the latest Pokemon.
There was even an incident in Missouri where four suspects used one of the games “Lure Module” features to attract victims and were able to lure eight to eleven trainers to a PokeStop where they then proceeded to rob them at gunpoint.
Nerve’s core systematic element was its use of technology. Through social media, the game was able to compile a complete profile for Vee but the access they gained on all her social media platforms, bank, etc. gave the game all it needed to be able to steal her identity and essentially ruin her life. The way the movie’s filming was set up also gave the film an extra layer of voyeurism.
When Vee decides to become a Player, the camera (therefore the audience) is the touchscreen laptop and it’s almost as if the built in computer camera has turned on without Vee’s knowledge and the audience is secretly watching her as she moves her hands slowly towards the screen to make her decision.
Throughout the entire movie, Vee never lets go of her phone- it’s almost like her lifeline- as she proceeds to get notification statuses on her dares and so on but her phone is also used as the gateway for the camera (and therefore the audience) to see what is happening.
When Vee is completing the dare of trying on a dress that is over 3,000 dollars, for example, she places her phone on the ground and through the phone’s camera, the audience watches from a low angle as Vee proceeds to hurriedly undress and change. This feeling of voyeurism is enforced by the in-game comments that proceed to roll up on the left side of the screen. As Ian and Vee set about doing their dares, the camera constantly pans out at certain intervals and we are left seeing the scene on a smaller phone screen as we discover that a Watcher is recording them.
Even at the end, when the game is finished and Ian has just told Vee his name, we are led to believe that they are finally alone and not being watched but the camera slowly pans back and a mysterious entity takes a photo, once again giving the camera (and the audience) a body that has used a phone to destroy the intimate privacy of the scene. This ending therefore leaves the audience with a singular message: Thanks to technology, we have no privacy.
Michelle Marchante is a guest contributor for The Buzz Insider and the Assistant Opinion Director at FIUSM. She is a writer, reader and filmmaking enthusiast. Currently, she is studying to get her degree in Broadcast Journalism and is also working on her second novel. Connect with her on Twitter @TweetMichelleM
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