Written and Directed by Branden Kramer
Available on Region 2 DVD
After moving to New York to start afresh and embark on an economic studies course, student Emma begins to receive anonymous phone calls. When things evolve from bangs on her apartment door at night to obscene, creepy messages sent by her new boyfriend Michael that he claims he never sent, Emma fears she’s being stalked. How much does the mysterious stalker know about her and where will it stop?
RATTER is a gripping, clever thriller from writer/director Branden Kramer. In his debut feature, Kramer explores how technology fits into our lives and shows what would happen should someone hack into those devices. Told entirely through the eye of a laptop’s webcam and smartphone’s camera, the audience discovers how much information about someone’s life is shared on a daily basis and how a hacker could use this against the person they’re peeping on.
The particular way in which this film is shot puts the viewer into the shoes of the stalker – we see everything they can see. All the information we know about Emma and her life is purely given up by her and we’re essentially a fly on the wall listening into these conversations as well as seeing them visually. We know things turn serious when the hacker begins to take a keen interest in Emma’s showering activities and love life, even capturing a moment in which she’s alone in her apartment pleasuring herself. Though we’re seeing what the hacker sees, we feel helpess as voyeurs trapped behind a screen, shouting out to her to lock her doors and to watch out for the crazy hacker but we’re unable to do anything except play witness.
Actress Ashley Benson is an excellent casting choice for the role of Emma and carries the film marvellously. Emma’s just an ordinary young woman who’s looking for a clean break away from her family home and her controlling ex-boyfriend Alex. New York seems a place where new opportunities can arise and Emma seems really keen to make it work in the new location. She’s got her friend Nicole there to rely upon and also has struck up a friendship with classmate Michael, so things are looking really up for her. For whatever reason, unbeknownst to the viewer, someone has hacked her devices to spy on her and ruin the good things she’s got going on. Right from the opening scene, her devices have already been hacked and the reason we’re seeing her conversation via Skype with her father is because the hacker has opened up that portal to spy on her, which is essentially what we’re doing though we don’t quite realise it til a few scenes later.
I must admit, at first I was dreading having to view the entire film from the camera eye of various devices but unlike shaky cam films and the like, it works incredibly well and keeps you glued to the screen from start to finish. It doesn’t make you nauseous, thankfully, with the camera fairly steady, just taken from different angles than what we’re used to.
For anyone who’s into their technology and computers, RATTER is a frightening tale of what could actually happen when we surround ourselves with these devices. Nearly everyone has a smartphone these days and they’re practically glued to it, using it for phoning, texting, playing music, selfies, web browsing and using the alarm to wake themselves up in the morning. The dark side of technology is soemthing we don’t really think about but after watching this film, you’ll be sure to eye your laptop and mobile phone with scrutiny.