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I Lived (2015)

i-Lived (original title)
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A young online app reviewer's latest assignment mysteriously improves his life, but also starts to tear him apart.

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Cast

Credited cast:
...
Josh
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Brian Breiter ...
The Man
...
Josh's Mom
...
Drunk Girl
...
Executive #2
...
Josh's Dad
...
Roberto Luis
Jonathan M. Howard ...
Café Patron
...
Detective McQuee (voice)
Christopher Mena ...
Bobby Yen (as Chris Mena)
...
Kidnap Girl
Maja Miletich ...
Genny
...
Mrs. Lee
...
Zach
...
Greta
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Storyline

Josh Fosse is a 20something guy whose life is going nowhere. His girl left, his rent is late, and he lacks a real job. He is trying to make it as an app reviewer online and decides to review a self help app called i-Lived for fun. He's signs on and immediately his life turns around. He meets the girl of his dreams and he gets a job offer he can't refuse. Convinced it's him and not the app, he signs out... and loses everything. He signs on again but this time the terms are different, the app is asking him to do things that are out of his moral comfort zone... but essential to becoming the success the app tells him he can be.

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3 July 2015 (USA)  »

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i-Lived  »

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Hit Repeat
Written by Gregory J Taieb and Anthony Vitali
Performed by Rude McClanahan and UsVsThem
Recorded and Produced by Gregory J Taieb
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User Reviews

 
An app-titude for murder
13 June 2016 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

The opening shot is a pair of vacant eyes and the sound of flatlining. Except Franck Khalfoun's follow-up to Maniac isn't some desperately moody and morose slow-burn horror, but a swift, darkly comic psychological thriller with ultra-modern themes. Khalfoun is writer, editor, producer and director, and his control of the material shows – up to a point, anyway.

i-Lived itself is a fictional app designed to help you achieve your life goals. Type in your ambition, and then follow the instructions that the app churns out. It gets into the hands of Josh (Jeremiah Watkins), a tech vlogger who's trying to get his app review show off the ground. His videos are convincingly abrasive, and packed with amusing narrative references which appear goofy but are loaded with relevance ("Are you proud of me, Dad?" He's really not). Josh is shy and awkward IRL but he's confident on camera.

When Josh aspires to woo a girl named Greta (Sarah Power), the app advises he learn to cook, dance, read poetry etc. The strongest section of the story is when we watch Josh attempting to manufacture this perfect personality for himself, in order to appeal to his prey. It plays into the solipsistic fantasy that modern technology can evoke. But then the app starts instructing him to perform more sinister, criminal acts. Is Josh a pawn in someone else's sick game? Or is his bona fide shadow side being given an outlet through this virtual observer?

The first half of the film contains many thought-provoking ideas. There's something here about the way it is practically possible nowadays to Google-whack our way to social approval. Also, there are themes about online identity: One way to retain and increase popularity, for example, is through increasingly extreme content.

It's when Khalfoun segues into horror that his grip on the high concept starts to loosen. Visually the ideas are still there, and there are some half decent sub-Lynchian dream-states. But Khalfoun's attempts at melding fantasy and reality – thus supposedly drawing us into Josh's mental decline – come across as annoyingly muddled more than devilishly ambiguous.

Josh himself is well played by Watkins, who in his gawkiness and intensity reminds me of a younger Adrien Brody. It's a classic case of a lead character whom we may not like as such but with whom we can empathise, and a large part of this is thanks to Watkins' performance, which has nuance and range.

I was slightly disappointed by the visualisation of the app itself. For something so supposedly cutting edge it looks distinctly cheap and 2000s. Which brings me to a unique added "bonus": You can actually download the i-Lived app to your smartphone, which pings you pop-ups throughout the film. It's an idea which is both neat and alarming; a gimmick specific to this film, one hopes, rather than the future of movie-watching.

Perhaps you may feel that i-Lived is worth it simply for this innovative feature. But aside from that, it's a solidly entertaining movie which manages to be both very relevant (in its subject matter) whilst also niche (in its structure and style). Its black humour may not be for everyone, and the drift into surrealism definitely won't be for everyone. But as far as the tech-horror movement goes, it's a fine entry into the canon.


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