Movie Review: ‘Hooked Up’

I have never been to Barcelona, nor do I know anyone from that historic city, but having met plenty of drunk American douchebags, I can sympathize with a movie that takes some delight in avenging the native Barcelonan against the Ugly American party-tourist. And the lead duo of party-tourists in Hooked Up is about as obnoxious as they come—entitled, whiny, misogynistic, too drunk, too horny. When one of their potential conquests, a model-hot Spanish girl wearing an American flag jacket, leads these two into certain peril in a spooky old house, it’s hard not to be on the girl’s side.

Hooked Up follows the exploits of Peter (Stephen Ohl), who is all busted up because his girlfriend just dumped him, and Tonio (Jonah Ehrenreich), who’s just looking to get laid, as they take on Barcelona (or “Baahhcelona,” as Tonio pronounces it). The two dudes find prospective sexual conquests at a danceclub, and one of these, Katia (Natascha Wiese), offers to take them all to her grandparents’ house for a fuck sesh. But what seems like the night of these two goons’ lives quickly becomes a nightmare when they find they are locked into the house and being stalked by a killer with a knife. Or is it a ghost…?

Peter and Tonio film the proceedings on their phones, even when this makes absolutely no sense, but such is the belief which must be suspended when one is watching a found-footage film. The iPhone conceit isn’t too distracting and gives a suitable you-are-there feel to the early scenes where the duo are bouncing from pub to club. Hooked Up’s poster proudly proclaims that it is “the first feature film shot entirely with an iPhone.” And while it’s not entirely clear why that would be a selling point, it is, I suppose, an achievement of some kind (though one that has been duplicated a few times since Hooked Up debuted in Spain in 2013, notably by Tangerine, a minor sensation at this year’s Sundance Film Festival).

Fortunately, despite having been filmed on a cell phone, Hooked Up doesn’t look too bad and is actually a bit more visually interesting than your standard found-footage fare—utilizing the saturated red lights of the club and the harsh light of the iPhone flashlight. Even better, the filmmakers create an atmospheric soundscape (one that obviously could not have been captured with mere iPhone mics) that adds considerably to the suspense. The movie is never exactly scary, but it does create a credible sense of tension.

Nothing that happens in the film is particularly novel, but there are enough blood and scares to maintain a low hum of engagement. Larcuen manages to keep things moving, and unlike most found-footage horror movies, which seem to think a chair sliding across the floor is scary, Hooked Up is a kind of slasher throwback with a haunted house vibe, featuring lots of dark corridors and spooky old rooms as well as a knife-wielding maniac out for blood. Things do drag in the final third, and Peter’s constant whinging about his ex-girlfriend does become pretty tiresome. And there is also a twist ending that doesn’t make much sense. But, all in all, Hooked Up is not a bad time; go in with relatively low expectations, and the movie should at least meet them.

However, I will note that the characters’ misogyny is unfortunately largely validated by the filmmakers. The film has a serious Madonna-whore complex—quite overtly, in fact, when the word “Whore” is scrawled into a girl’s chest, and then she is impaled on a statue of the Virgin Mary! There is a minor revelation relating to Peter’s ex-girlfriend that seems to exist solely to confirm that, yes, all women are deceptive. Ultimately, the film’s gender politics boils down to “Bros before hos.”

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