i-Lived is a mystery-thriller that was written and directed by Franck Khalfoun, who helmed the Maniac remake and the upcoming Amityville: The Awakening. The film is about a young tech vlogger, Josh Fosse, who reviews apps on Youtube for a meager living. His girlfriend left him, he is falling behind on his rent, and his father is disappointed by Josh’s lack of a “real job” after the money he invested in a Stanford education. Josh happens upon a self-help app called i-Lived and decides to try it out on his show. Initially, he isn’t impressed.
When Josh revisits the app he is able to turn his life around. He meets the girl of his dreams. He gets a job offer he can’t possibly refuse for just a few small “chores” like snapping a photo and then buying a girl a drink. Unfortunately, the chores he receives don’t stay benign. After Josh deletes the app, deciding that it’s ridiculous to owe his success to chance, he loses everything he’s worked for. When the young man reinstalls the program he finds that he has bitten off far more than he can chew. The chores begin to extend outside his moral comfort zone and no longer seem so harmless. Although the app reassures him that the steps it outlines are necessary to achieve his inevitable success, Josh isn’t convinced. Nothing can prepare him for what happens next.
Related: Exclusive Interview: Franck Khalfoun
Overall the movie functions well as a thriller. There are a variety of filming techniques utilized within the picture to bring Khalfoun’s vision to life. Due to the nature of the subject matter, following the life of an active video blogger, the transitions between the different approaches to film-making feel natural and make sense. When Josh is filming a video, the audience is greeted with a Youtube-esque display, complete with the animated graphics he creates for inclusion in his videos. When Josh is monitoring the security system of his house, the audience is granted the same perspective. The rest of the film, for the most part, is shot using traditional filming methods. For those horror fans who are decidedly against found footage, i-Lived is still a film you can enjoy. The camera work is logical and doesn’t rely on coincidence or faulty reasoning to justify its use throughout the feature, so if you aren’t annoyed by Youtube videos shot in the first person, you won’t be irritated by the limited first-person shooting style of i-Lived.
Beyond the cinematography, comedian Jeremiah Watkins is one of the highlights of the film. He plays Josh, the goofy tech vlogger who is the primary focus of the movie. Although much of Watkins’ history is in comedy, he doesn’t do the emotional or dramatic aspects of the film a disservice. The film also features strong acting performances by Sarah Power and Elaine Partnow. Power was the woman of Josh’s dreams, Greta, while Partnow portrayed Josh’s landlady, Mrs. Lee. True, it was compelling writing which made these characters more interesting than they initially may have seemed, but it was exemplary acting which helped to bring the characters to their full potential.
The movie is a very slow burner, which works remarkably well. It is the sort of thriller that plays out more like a drama in the beginning while the audience gets to know the characters and begin to understand what leads Josh down his ultimate path. The mystery and horror elements don’t surface fully until later in the film but it works. The audience begins to care about Josh’s well-being, and the viewer is not given many indications that things might be amiss for him until it is far too late.
Overall, i-Lived is quite good. The villain reveal is a bit cheesy, but despite that the film does carry a powerful message about technology dependence and our eagerness to click or tap “I Agree” without fully understanding the consequences. This is a movie you watch when you’re in the mood for a psychological thriller rather than a horror flick, and even viewers who don’t like horror will likely find something to enjoy about i-Lived.
WICKED RATING: 6.5/10
Director(s): Franck Khalfoun
Writer(s): Franck Khalfoun, Brian Breiter
Stars: Sarah Power, Franck Khalfoun, Jeremiah Watkins, Elaine Partnow
Release: July 3, 2015
Studio/ Production Co: Bleiberg Entertainment & Ministry of Content
Length: 97 Minutes