Director: Graham Hughes
Writer: Graham Hughes
Cast: Graham Hughes, Annabel Logan, Paddy Kondracki, Joma West
Producer: Graham Hughes
Cinematography: Kevin Walls
Editor: Graham Hughes
Cert: 15 (TBC)
Running time: 88mins
What’s the story: A documentary entitled Death of a Vlogger investigates the strange story surrounding a YouTube filmmaker, whose flat is seemingly haunted by a poltergeist.
What’s the verdict: Ironic for a film about the paranormal, Graham Hughes’ third directorial outing breathes fresh life into the mockumentary format. Wrapped in this initially standard looking horror mock-doc is an effective chiller and a blackly comic spin on social media stardom.
Graham (Hughes) is a likeable YouTuber, chasing fame through weekly vlogs, typically based around pratfalling. He hits pay dirt when capturing on camera an apparently supernatural event. Soon he and girlfriend Erin (Logan) are witness to other odd and destructive events in his flat.
Enlisting the help of Hawaiian shirt wearing YouTube psychic Steven (Kondracki), the three attempt to discover what’s going bump in the night. And put it online.
Taking his cue from Ghost Stories, Ghost Watch and Canadian found-footage drama The Dirties (plus a dash of J-horror), writer/director Hughes displays a genuine talent for spinning atmospheric tension out of his mundane setting.
YouTube footage of the hauntings uses background hallway shadows and subtly moving objects to generate nervous giggles. More spectacular shocks also benefit from the complacency amateur footage instills in the audience (chained-up bikes have rarely been so unsettling).
But, Death of a Vlogger bullseyes in Hughes’ canny script. Slow burning, it patiently establishes Graham, his circle of friends and the mockumentary format, before unleashing twists and turns, jolts and comedy. Online shaming and fake news are also woven into a plot that plays mind games with its audience.
Hughes can spin a decent campfire yarn and whip up unease at a moment’s notice. A prologue featuring that old favourite, something spooky in a photograph, sets the tone nicely. A possessed doll story recounted by ghost debunking journalist Alice (West) is spooky precisely because it shouldn’t be.
Naturalistic performances from all involved (including irate extras) sell the shocks and the laughs, and paper over budgetary restrictions: early on Graham notes with relief that the malevolent spirit spared the expensive flat-screen telly and laptop when trashing his living room.
Not as terrifying as that Fyre island doc, but this horror-comedy winner should scare up all the right reactions.