#Blue_Whale – Fantasia 2021


#Blue_Whale – Fantasia 2021

Spiraling paranoia and gut-wrenching dread tear through #BLUE_WHALE, the feature debut from Russian writer/director Anna Zaytseva, whose shorts have won no less than 16 awards on the festival circuit. A provincial town is shaken by a wave of mysterious teen suicides. Researching the death of her younger sister, schoolgirl Dana (Anna Potebnya) comes across a sickening social media game that encourages youths to take horrific self-harm challenges. Aiming to hunt down those responsible for her sister’s death, she registers for the game, opening a doorway into the cruelest of hidden online worlds. Co-produced by Timur Bekmambetov and shot in the Screenlife storytelling format that he pioneered, #BLUE_WHALE taps into something insightfully disturbing about the ways that teens can find themselves manipulated online.

While investigating her sister's death, a teenager uncovers a social media suicide cult in . Dana () is a schoolgirl who is reeling from the recent and sudden suicide of her sister Yulya. Going through Yulya's social media history, Dana makes the disturbing discovery that Yulya was part of a group that participated in the “Blue Whale” game, which consists of 21 self-harming tasks, eventually ending with the participant's suicide. Creating a fake profile for herself, Dana messages the group's mysterious masked leader Ada Morte to participate in the game, which turns out to be much more dangerous than expected.

#Blue_Whale is the debut of writer/director Anna Zaytseva, utilizing co-producer Timur Bekmambetov's Screenlife format, as previously seen in the films UnfriendedSearching, and Profile. Inspired by actual cybercrimes that occurred in Eastern Europe, which also inspired the Japanese Momo hoax, #Blue_Whale told entirely from the computer and phone of teenage protagonist Dana, who is not only dealing with the suicide of her sister but how this incident has affected Dana's relationship with her mother. Hoping to catch some incriminating evidence, Dana soon finds out that she is being tracked by the mysterious Ada Morte, who is not content with Dana merely being a passive participant in this game.

While the films utilizing the Screenlife format have tackled many different genres, #Blue_Whale is a film that is firmly in horror, right down to the demonic mask worn by the film's knife-wielding antagonist Ada Morte. It is almost a missed opportunity that #Blue_Whale doesn't feature any serious commentary about cyber-bullying and it has truly driven teens to suicide. Instead, #Blue_Whale takes place in a hyperrealistic world, where villains can hack computers on a whim and the end result is an interesting, yet inconsequential cyber genre romp.

#Blue_Whale streamed as part of the virtual 2021 Fantasia Film Festival

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.