FrightFest 2013: Snap

Anton Bitel,

"But that's every human being on the planet," insists Wendy (Nikki Reed), unable to accept a fellow student's definition of the mentally 'sick' as anyone who "presents a potential risk to himself and/or others."

Social work student Wendy clings fervently to the notion that "potential isn't destiny," and that it is impossible to decide who is truly, irreparably sick when we all on occasion hear, even heed, the demands of a voice in our head. Then, however, she meets Jim (Jake Hoffman) at the welfare centre where she is interning, and her theories, not to mention her life, begin to unravel.

Desperately shy Jim spends most of his time shut away in his apartment composing raucous, heavily sampled dubstep on his computer - in part to block out the goading, obnoxious criticisms of his constant companion Jake (Thomas Dekker), who plays unwelcome id to Jim's shrinking ego, and is quickly established as Jim's volatile Tyler Durden. Wendy is drawn to Jim via his music, but after a disastrous date sends the young man over the edge, she finds herself with a dogged - and increasingly disturbed - stalker.

Although their two stories become intimately intertwined, Snap is much more focused on Jim than on Wendy, violently editing together Jim's distorted perspective as though it were one of his mix tracks. By overdubbing his hallucinatory experiences with flashbacks to the primal scene of his childhood trauma, Snap puts us right inside its protagonist's confused headspace, and leaves us just waiting for him to do what the title promises. In this way the film evokes the subjective style of other 'muttering man' psychothrillers, from Taxi Driver (1976) to Clean, Shaven (1993) and from Spiral (2007) to Afterschool (2008).

Wendy's discussions of mental illness allow Snap's taut genre thrills to be framed by a broader, more sympathetic concern with schizophrenia as a sliding scale - while the involvement of two separate directors (Youssef Delara and Victor Teran) reflects and highlights a more general preoccupation with the different inner voices, sometimes collaborative, sometimes conflicting, that shape all our actions and experiences. Ultimately Snap is an uncompromising and rather upsetting tragedy in which people are shown doing terrible things through no fault of their own. Its dialectic on the possibilities of change and cure, though bleakly resolved, brings method and meaning to all the madness - and while the film is full of jarring distortions and violent moodswings, it never hits a wrong note.

'Snap' screens at Film4 FrightFest 2013...

Discovery Screen 2, Fri 23rd August, 11.15pm
Discovery Screen 1, Mon 26th August, 3.20pm

Follow Anton on Twitter: @AntBit

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