Director: Branden Kramer
Writer: Branden Kramer
Stars: Ashley Benson, Matt McGorry, Kaili Vernoff
Forget Edward Snowden. FBI versus Apple? Peanuts. Sure, both topics pertain to “National Security Interests” and privacy, but do they have anything on a “ratter,” an apt neologism roughly meaning a hacker who stalks his (being gender specific here, ladies) prey by infiltrating our everyday devices? You know those ubiquitous items we can’t seem to get away from: smartphones, laptops, smart TVs; essentially any device with a camera and an internet connection. Well, beware the ratter, for s/he may be spying on you in the ultimate Peeping Tom/Big Brothery fashion that transcends creepy. And in the age of cell phone hacks, revenge porn, and celebrity culture, the new film Ratter, admittedly a bit kitsch, tackles these themes head on in an entertaining yet terrifying manner.
The style of this movie fits somewhere between the found footage film and the Paranormal Activity series by cleverly letting the audience see through the perspective of Emma’s (Pretty Little Liar’s Ashley Benson) iPhone, iMac, and smart TV. Unbeknownst to Emma, who has just moved from Wisconsin to bustling Brooklyn to earn a Master’s in Economics at NYU, all of her devices have been hacked by an unknown ratter. This digital assailant is able to take pictures of innocent Emma around her home doing everything from the innocuous (dishes, stretches, watching TV) to the most private and intimate (I’ll let you imagine that for the moment).
All is well until the ratter oversteps even the most voyeuristic of bounds by attempting to permeate more than just her digital life. Realizing something more sinister is happening with her devices and her once cozy new beginning in New York, Emma becomes paranoid, blaming her ex-boyfriend for prank calls and inappropriate texts. The ratter is even able to create tension between Emma and her new beau Michael (Orange is the New Black’s Matt McGorry) by hacking into his device. There are lots of other creative, albeit creepy scenarios that would never make one want to…say… text while sitting on the toilet ever again.
Ratter, for all intents and purposes, is not groundbreaking whatsoever. It’s a genre film that would likely scare Millennials more than any other age group. Still, Ratter feels timely, even if it isn’t timeless. It’s a movie that works well right now, but may seem silly in just a few years. Think of other films that may fit this mold. Remember Cellular, that silly kidnapping-chase movie with Kim Basinger and that muscular guy who is now Captain America? It’s a movie that basically stars a cell phone, but people enjoyed seeing a new technology in action. How about Hackers starring a then unknown Angelina Jolie? Or The Net starring Sandra Bullock and a new up-and-comer, the internet? You get the point.
The difference with Ratter is something referred to earlier: the connection to internet culture, voyeurism and privacy. Whether or not a scenario like we see in this film is conceivable matters little in an age where privacy is an uncultivated agreement to Terms of Service. (Unless, of course, you are this lonely Londoner, who spent a week reading the terms of the free WiFi offered in and around London's financial district: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jun/15/i-read-all-the-small-print-on-the-internet) And while the FBI and Apple set precedents that I’m sure a future drama or horror movie will unpack in years to come, viewers can think of a ratter like a cautionary boogeyman. At the very least, we can take a step and recognize that our real lives, dictated so much by our digital doppelgangers, can be ruined at the click of a hack.
Images: IMDB & beamly.com