More films are plumbing the boundless world of social media influencer culture for cinematic plot fodder. A movie like this summer’s Spree luxuriates in the iconography and detail-laden trappings of the screen-time experience, pushing the limits of reality and its mirrored, digital simulacrum for genre thrills. But Deadcon, a considerably cheaper, lower-effort affair, runs in a similar circle.

In the annals of algorithm-pushed Netflix horror fare, Deadcon doesn’t stick out much at first glance. Its premise, that of an influencer convention that turns into a spook show, calls to mind the haunting imagery of empty ball pits at the failed Tumblr fandom extravaganza DashCon. But even an outright horror film isn’t as scary as that cultural trash fire.

Rather, the film follows the exploits of various characters from View Con, a nondescript gathering of nondescript influencers, with the occasional reference to Snapchat chopped in with various generic stand-ins for actual social media platforms. That missing detail work is clearly a casualty of the film’s smaller budget, but it plagues the movie’s otherwise note-perfect encapsulation of internet-age idolatry and the disingenuous way content creators’ blatant networking must stand in for actual human interaction.

What the filmmakers miss out on by neglecting to adhere to the actual visual language of most social media, they make up for by taking their time establishing the psychology of influencer culture within the cast. It’s genuinely distracting how few scenes take advantage of vertical video, assuming an alternate world where young people actually turn their phones to a more cinematic aspect ratio for selfies, but each of the characters speaks with the “like, share, subscribe” mantra-like language of the terminally plugged-in.

But even within that sharp, observational recreation, the characters themselves are poorly drawn as to be interchangeable, making basic plot points about love triangles feel complex by virtue of the sameness between the two leads, AKAshley (Lauren Elizabeth) and Megan (Claudia Sulewski). This is forgivable given these petty machinations are just table setting for whenever the film’s mysterious and destructive force will no doubt rear its head and begin plucking off the insufferables one by one.

From the film’s prologue, we know the looming specter must be related to a desperate computer programmer who stayed at this same hotel for a tech conference in the early ‘80s, where his project LinkRabbit, all black and green pre-internet aesthetics, gets laughed out by his peers. He’s ahead of his time, obviously, trying to peddle a digital space to make friends a decade too soon.

So, when crime-scene photos and stories of missing children from that convention come to light at the same time one of our leading ladies begins stalking the halls of the con, shoeless and confused, unable to muster a smile for selfies with fans, it creates intrigue for the film’s eventual climax. But the disparate plot elements never come together quite the way they could. Everything feels strung together in a way that makes the very short runtime feel doubly long.

In the end, Deadcon stumbles with the thrills and the attention to detail, but nonetheless finds some meaningful observations about the dichotomy between the lonely tinkerers of the old computer age and the glossy models who live and thrive within the framework those shunned nerds built.

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