Shudder’s Shook Explained- A Smart Update Of When A Stranger Calls
Shudder’s Shook from writer/director Jennifer Harrington is a fun throwback to old-school slashers with a modern twist. It’s KEWLAF.
Be careful who you trust and who you let into your life because it can come back to bite you hard. Shook has the look and feel of a slick commentary on instafamous society, but with the sensibility of some of the best classics from the 70s and 80s. You can’t help but think of 1979’s When a Stranger Calls when watching Shook. It’s by no means a rip off, just an obvious respectful hommage to everything that made that movie great. Twists, turns, and unexpected curveballs make this a must-watch for lovers of the things you won’t see coming.
Mia(Daisye Tutor) is an insta-celebrity who, in the wake of a fellow beauty influencer’s death at the hands of the “dog killer,” decides to take some time off to dog sit for her sister’s pet and reflect on life. It’s more a ploy to look like she cares rather than actually caring, but whatever. Shortly after arriving at her family home, she gets strange messages and calls from someone claiming to be a neighbor. He threatens to hurt those closest to Mia if she doesn’t play his games. As the games escalate, so does the violence. In the world of social media, what is real and what is fake, though?
The film opens with a behind-the-scenes view of a red carpet photo shoot that is extremely exclusive. So exclusive, in fact, only three influencers were invited, and there isn’t any actual event. As photographers bombard the women with flashes, the camera pans back to reveal an empty lot and only a Step and Repeat. It’s all a lie. That tells you everything you need to know about Harrington’s film. Don’t believe anything you see because nothing is what it seems.
Harrington creates a claustrophobic atmosphere of paranoia and dread. In a world where every picture, video, or word is analyzed, it’s hard not to obsess about what message you portray. She smartly plays on the inherent creepiness of social media stalking and smart homes. Both are used to drive the tension. Really cool use of projected conversations and messages are our envoy into what is happening. This is a film that feels very current and keeps you guessing.
Who is the killer?
Mia’s sister Nicole(Emily Goss) has been caring for their mother, who recently died. She had a neurological disease called Livingston’s, which Nicole has as well. In the first act, Kellan, a neighbor across the street, calls Mia and demands she play his game. It is revealed in the next act; however, no one was hurt or died, and it was all set up by Mia’s friend Lani. She captured footage of Nicole crying from the funeral months ago, and the rest was staged.
Jade and Santi were in on it too. I don’t know why Santi agreed to go along with it, but the other two weren’t exactly real friends and had a low threshold for empathy. Lani doesn’t hate Mia; she just needed to capitalize on her fame to drive her own following. Lani’s online persona is of a rich girl. In reality, she works at a grocery store and doesn’t have the posh life she projects.
Even after Lani admits it was all a lie, Mia continues to be harassed by someone who claims they will kill her friends unless she cooperates. In the final act, we find out it is Nicole who is killing her friends. This is a long con that she has been thinking about since before their mother died. In fact, Nicole killed their mother by smothering her. Nicole killed all Mia’s friends, including her boyfriend, and killed all the dogs leading up to the makeup event.
She planned to take everything away from Nicole at least virtually and make her prove she would care for her when Nicole got too sick to care for herself. When Mia chose her friends over Nicole, it enraged her, and she realized Mia would never choose to be selfless, so what started as a cruel prank turned into a killing spree. Nicole killed the neighbor because he had terrible timing. Nicole wanted proof she could depend on Mia.
Why did Nicole do it?
Nicole killed all her friends because she resented her sister for not helping out more with their mother and not having the illness herself. The strain of caring for her mother caused her to be incredibly angry. When Mia lied to her about Chico and chose Lani over her, Nicole lost it and snapped. She originally intended only to trick Mia and embarrass her online. Aside from their mother’s and the dog murders, the rest of the murders were not planned. Nicole has the same disease as her mother and will need to rely on Mia to care for her in the future. She has already started to show signs of neurological impairment, and it terrified her. Additionally, she mentions that Livingston’s causes personality changes. I’m assuming Nicole wasn’t a psychopath before, so that must be one of her changes. Livingston’s disease is not real, BTW.
How did Nicole do it?
Nicole cyber stalked Mia and all her friends and used that information to trick Mia. She also paid the hotel front desk clerk to ring Nicole’s cell phone if Mia called the hotel directly. That way, it looked like Nicole was in San Fransico instead of at home. She also paid a worker in the morgue to release their mother’s body back to her to keep her in the closet. Finally, she used phone apps and a real neighbor’s name to make it seem as if Kellan was a nutball watching Mia and torturing all her friends.
Shook reminds us that you never know who might be sliding into your DM’s, and with so much of our lives on the internet, anything is possible. Deep fakes and not-so-complex tricks are possible with a cell phone and an app. There’s an app for just about anything today, and catfishing is the least of our concerns.
In society’s carefully curated life on social media, Shook isn’t far-fetched. Everyone’s pictures are run through a thousand filters before being released, and you rarely see anyone post about the massive fight they had with their kids about putting their dishes in the sink before ants invade. Instead, there are gleaming pictures of newly remodeled cabinets and designer sleigh beds, #blessed. Who we are online is rarely who we are in real life. You can’t trust anything, even your own sister. Mia and Nicole find that out the hard way. Shook is available on Shudder today. You can get thirty days free by entering the code SIGNAL and clicking here. You can find all the best things on Shudder here.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.