Earning the acclaim of being the very first movies shot in LA during the pandemic, "Songbird" already feels like a fossil of a film. This muddled, mess of a horror-thriller seems to be cashing in on COVID-19, as surely its big draw is its apparent "relevance" to the moment.
There may not be a more irrelevant film this year.
With the empty, evacuated streets of LA as his backdrop, director Adam Mason ("Hangman") attempts to make a film that encapsulates the fear and anxiety of this moment in time. In essence, he has created a disaster film of a different type...in that his film is itself a disaster.
It imagines the year 2024, with the coronavirus having now mutated into a newer, deadlier form. "Q-Camps" (quarantine camps) have been set up all over the country, where infected people are concentrated and left for dead. The uninfected remain on complete lock-down in their homes, with a lucky few - the "immune" - the only ones allowed to roam free. Nico (K.J. Apa) is one such immune, who works as a delivery person for his boss (Craig Robinson). When Nico's girlfriend Sara (Sofia Carson) might potentially have been infected, he races to save her, as some crazed vigilantes work to stop him.
Or something like that.
Put to the side the fact that the film is sloppily edited, poorly written and as superficial as they come, but "Songbird" actually feels weirdly outdated already. Written in March and shot over the Summer, the entire premise feels expired now that we're on the verge of a vaccine. But the worst part of it is that the pandemic itself feels exploited, as the film wastes no time at all devolving into a completely incoherent thriller, the likes of which you might have found airing on Cinemax at 3:00am back in 1992.
Interspersed with the central Nico/Sara love story, we are given a cacophony of other, poorly-conceived and under-developed characters, like a sex-crazed pyschopath (Bradley Whitford) and his wife (Demi Moore) who spends her time walking around her living room reading lines of dialogue no real person would ever say. One such thread - between a war vet (Paul Walter Hauser) and an online musician (Alexandra Daddario) is the most effective...its in these interactions the film lightly tackles the idea of human connection, the lack of communication and the loneliness brought on by a pandemic. You know, all themes that the movie should have been dealing heavily with. Instead, we get far too little of this, traded in for one genre trope after another.
"We weren't just delivering packages, we were delivering hope," says Nico towards the end of the film. If that line inspires you to watch "Songbird," then go for it. But this is one film worth socially-distancing yourself from.
Genre: Drama, Romance.
Run Time: 1 hour 25 minutes.
Starring: K.J. Appa, Sofia Carson, Craig Robinson, Demi Moore, Bradley Whitford, Alexandra Daddario, Paul Walter Hauser.
Co-Written and Directed by Adam Mason ("Hangman," "Junkie," "Pig").
"Songbird" is available on VOD on Friday, December 11th, 2020.
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