Nerve

January 6, 2017 at 3:03 am (9 Heads, Nerve) (, , )

Nerve – 2016 – United States

Nerve is a movie about an internet game also called Nerve. Nerve is described as “Truth or Dare without the truth”. Participants choose to be a “watcher” or a “player”. Anonymous watchers follow players on social media, devising and voting on dares. Players complete the dares to gain money and additional followers.

Nerve’s protagonist is Vee, a mousy New York City teen pressured into playing Nerve by her friends. Initially, she agonizes over the tamest of dares (“kiss a stranger”), but soon her audaciousness escalates. She streaks through a department store, walks across a ladder between two buildings, and rides a motorcycle with a blindfolded driver. As her popularity on Nerve skyrockets, Vee’s watchers influence her to become romantically involved with another player named Ian. Investigating Ian, she discovers he is a Nerve veteran who witnessed a player’s death. Vee snitches to the police and is abducted by Nerve’s shadowy organizers. “Snitches get stitches,” proclaims the rules of Nerve.

Nerve’s premise is a real winner. Parts of it defy logic: How does the game stay underground with tens of thousands of participants? Who funds the (often excessive) cash rewards for the players? Why do all the participants live in New York City? However, Nerve is still plausible enough to be horrifying. It’s easy to imagine teens joining the game’s self-destructive subculture. In Nerve’s climax, the game’s watchers don’t intervene to prevent a player’s death. This scenario recalls the 2003 death of Brandon Vedas. Participants in a chatroom watched Vedas overdose on multiple drugs but did not notify the police.

For a teen movie, Nerve is clever and has a real understanding of internet subcultures. Its themes are both contemporary (life in surveillance society, disposable celebrities, and the intersection of social media and real life) and timeless (peer pressure, mob mentality, and the recklessness of youth).

Nerve is proudly set in New York City. Vee is from Staten Island and recites Wu-Tang Clan lyrics. Scenes are shot at iconic New York locations. Most memorably, a motorcyclist races through Times Square with a “New York f***ing City” bumper sticker on his helmet.

Rating: 9/10 Shrunken Heads. Watching this made me feel really old.

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