{Movie Review}- Browse, A Stylish Faux-Noir For The Digital Age

Browse premiering on VOD July 7th, 2020 is a paranoid head trip into an uncomfortable place anyone could find themselves in.

A lonely man believes someone has hacked all his smart devices and his online identity when strange things begin happening to him. As Richard dives headlong into crushing depression and confusion, he begins to question who, or what is doing this to him, and why? Browse strays smartly from It Follows territory by maintaining the nucleus of the plot on what is going on in Richard’s head instead of what might be happening to him. That shift to his intimate headspace allows Browse to feel as paranoid as Richard does. The tag line is “Be careful what you search for” because not every truth should be found.

Lukas Haas(Richard), who you’ve seen in Inception and Transcendence, plays this “everyman” as a bit befuddled and definitely depressed. Through flashbacks, we get glimpses of a past life and love. Haas infuses Richard with just enough normalcy to avoid the pitfall of navel-gazing while allowing for the possibility that he requires serious therapy. As he falls further and further into madness, he becomes less sympathetic and more terrifying. His violent outbursts are the one truly scary thing about this film because they feel voyeuristic. You could be watching anyone on the street or at a party meltdown as he does. You never know who your standing next too or walking near on the sidewalk.

Screen Capture Courtesy of Film Rise

The remainder of the cast consists of an odd assortment of beautiful women and obnoxious men. Apartment manager Kyle(Bodhi Elfman), who is terrible at his job and an even worse friend, is comic relief while smarmy boss Daniel is a little too on the nose to be believable. A fellow employee Sarah Rafferty, everyone’s favorite ballbuster on Suits, carries a torch for Richard but is too pathetic herself to amount to more than a passing thought. New neighbor Veronica(Chloe Bridges) from Pretty Little Liars is stunningly unattainable, and ex-girlfriend Roxy Jocelin Donahue from Ti West’s The House of the Devil and Doctor Sleep is like a hazy memory of a beautiful moment in time. She’s both sad and probably misrepresented.

Shudder’s Z Explained- Domestic Abuse And Is Z Real?

Mike Testin’s vision feels like an art-house film that wants to say more than it does. With some good performances, particularly by the underused women, this is a movie about the hyperconnectivity of our current world told through a decidedly male perspective. The film may be about Richard and what is happening to him but ends up having more to say about how women are treated and how they treat others both in life and online. They aren’t all victims.

I’m not sure if this focus was purposeful as there is a vagueness to the film overall that does feel intentional. We aren’t supposed to know exactly what happened to Richard. Did someone cyber-stalk him and seriously fuck up his life, or did he do this to himself through a series of dumb mistakes and overlooked decisions? If someone did do it, why? Told from Richard’s point of view, he is an innocent, albeit obsessive guy picking up the pieces following a breakup. All unreliable narrators have one thing in common, though. None of them can be believed, and Richard may be a troubled man who has been slowly losing his mind. Several scenes, in the end, seem to indicate he has some rage issues and has been indulging in an unhealthy amount of voyeurism for years.

Screen Capture Courtesy of Film Rise

What’s starts out as a neo-noir who done it veers into a strange nebulous where everything we see is questioned. As a horror film, it doesn’t work all that well. It’s too plodding, too murky, and too musically aided. As a stylish mystery, Browse is more successful. Musically, the dissonant melodies of well-timed jazz act as Richard’s beating heart and racing mind. They let the viewer feel precisely what he is feeling. Sometimes it is melancholy, sometimes, angry, and others debilitatingly confused. All of the musical choices by Makaya McCraven are interesting and reflective. They are a highlight of the film.

Dark Season 3 Ending Explained: Triquetra, Fate, Physics, And Who’s Left In The End?

Director Mike Testin is clearly trying to say something important about the interconnected isolation of existence in the internet age. The ending is unclear, but the message is crystal. The male gaze is real, and when coupled with a troubled mind, it can be hazardous. Browse is a claustrophobic whodunit for the internet age. We are more connected than we have ever been and simultaneously more lonely. Browse captures the isolation of our world. Be careful who and what you trust your information with because it just might betray you. Sometimes the person you should trust the least is yourself. At the very least, pay your damn rent. Browse is out July 7th, 2020, on VOD everywhere.

Have your say