May 11, 2023

VIRTUAL REALITY and the Creative Curveball

2021 / 85 min
Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

The title of this Argentinian horror film is a little misleading. The plot of Virtual Reality doesn’t really have anything to do with VR simulators or gaming. That’s ultimately a good thing because we’ve seen enough of those anyway.

Instead, Matias (Guillermo Berthold) is an arrogant horror film director who goes to extreme lengths to acquire a mysterious flash drive, which his “producer” promises will turn his latest slasher film, which has just wrapped, into a classic. When done editing, he invites the cast and crew to his home for the first screening. However, the movie has scenes no one remembers shooting, and when the killer - called “The Celtic” - is choking the “final girl” on-screen, the actress playing her, Guada (Vanesa Gonzalez), begins choking for real.

One by one, those in attendance die when their movie counterparts are murdered. But even after figuring that out, they aren’t able to shut-off the computer playing the film. Meanwhile, Matias himself has disappeared, and for a while, everyone appears helpless to do anything but watch the film to see who dies next. But that doesn’t stop them from tying-up Julian (Christian Sancho), the guy who played The Celtic…just in case.

When you forget how to use a cheese grater.
Up to this point, Virtual Reality is unremarkable, with a concept similar to A Nightmare on Elm Street. Bland characters and dull dialogue clog the first act, and even when the mayhem begins, we assume the novelty of these people vicariously witnessing their own violent deaths is all the film has to offer. But then the narrative throws a sudden, fiendishly clever curveball when Guada and her friends accidentally discover they can communicate with the characters on-screen. I wouldn’t dream of spoiling the hows or whys, but it’s the first of several twists that ultimately make Virtual Reality a wild ride.  

Writer-director Hirnan Findling manages to do a lot with very little. Despite the title, this is a fairly low-tech affair, with a setting and aesthetic that reflects its limited budget. But who needs visual shock & awe when armed with ideas that confound viewer expectations and occasionally messes with their heads? While still embracing traditional slasher elements - and featuring some impressively gruesome death scenes - Virtual Reality evolves into a unique little horror film with a quasi-meta denouement that’s both ominous and amusing.

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