In the opening scene of Like Me, the debut feature from writer/director Robert Mockler, a masked figure enters a drive-through convenience kiosk, holding up a cellphone to record their interaction. At first, the clerk simply acts annoyed, then briefly agrees to play along with their schtick, before coming back around to being simply annoyed.
Then, the figure pulls out a gun, sending the clerk into a blubbering panic, which leads to a struggle before the masked figure leaves in a hurry, jumping back into their car. While driving away, the mask is removed, showing it to be a young girl, Kiya (Addison Timlin), who seems exasperated with disbelief that her stunt seemed to work.
Almost immediately, she uploads her video to the internet, prompting a flood of reaction videos, ranging from people questioning the motives, and sanity of the perpetrator, to good ol’ boys puffing their chest and screaming about the importance of the Second Amendment.
Seemingly infatuated with the attention it gives her, Kiya sees this as a kind of reward, and proceeds to take her web series to the next level by kidnapping a local motel owner, Marshall (horror guru Larry Fessenden, who also produced the film). During their time together, Kiya continues to upload her exploits, which starts with tying Marshall to a bed and force-feeding him junk food, causing another tidal wave of comments and reaction videos.
Kiya, it seems, is emboldened by this kind of attention, as it seems to be the only motivation she has for committing these increasingly bizarre crimes. Whereas social media has been a method for horror movie villains in the past decade or so, Like Me is the first one where it’s the madness itself.
As Kiya and Marshall’s story progresses, the movie will make abrupt cuts to color-saturated images, twitchy animation that emulates video apps like Boomerang, and deafening soundscapes that seem to illustrate the abstract concept of what social media is doing to not only our minds, but our ability to interact with one another.
While the film gives us plenty to unpack regarding Marshall, who enters into this situation under less-than-flattering circumstances, it seems almost purposefully light when exploring Kiya’s character. This could be because Kiya is uncertain of who she is and what defines her, an empty void that’s only filled with rancor-filled online comments. That’s also not to say she’s lacking as a character by any means, and Timlinson is able to bring to her listless disconnect from the world around her to life.
Like Me opens this weekend in New York and LA, and will be available on VOD come February 20th