When it comes to genres, we’ve had the main staples, such as comedy, drama, musical, etc, for decades now, with no real additions.
That has changed with the development of technology however; take the found footage genre, that was certainly promoted with the success of 1999’s The Blair Witch Project, which couldn’t have been made without the commercial hit of the home video camera.
But a new genre has recently emerged, once again linked with the affordability of tech, and that’s the desktop screen genre. This one primarily takes place, as the name suggests, on the screen of a computer laptop, but can also be extended to a phone screen, with examples including 2018’s Searching and Profile and 2020’s Spree .
This latest sees a young woman at her desk as she tries to unravel a family mystery on her laptop.
With her mother Grace (Nia Long) going off on a vacation with new boyfriend Kevin (Ken Leung) to Columbia for a few days, June (Storm Reid) is planning on doing what any normal 18-year-old would do in similar circumstances – par-tay.
She’s under strict instructions to pick the couple up from the airport on their return, which she dutifully does. Or she would do if they had turned up. Despite waiting for a number of arrivals, the couple don’t appear.
Of course the first thing June does is try to call her mother – but no reply. She then starts to look online at the hotel where they stayed at and gets in contact with them, only to find that they left, but strangely left all their things in their room.
This sets all of June’s warning signs off, leaving her with only one outcome – they’re missing. But how? Using her laptop, June begins to investigate her mother’s disappearance, as she slowly puts the pieces together, using her tech savvy. But can she really discover what happened to her mom from just using her desktop?
Someone who knows a thing or two about this emerging genre is Russian director Timur Bekmambetov. Not only did he direct Profile, but he’s also produced five other similar titles, including this one. In fact take Bekmambetov out of the equation and you’re unlikely to have a desktop genre at all.
And as genres go, they’re pretty formulaic; the story unfolds on a computer desktop, with web pages and apps open aplenty, with of course the PC’s camera also filming whomever is sitting in front of it.
For the most part directors Nick Johnson and Will Merrick stick to the formula pretty well, despite a few wobbles towards the ending, where they take a few obvious creative shortcuts.
The story itself doesn’t hold up as well. To be fair, the first two-thirds of the film are pretty strong, with Reid doing a sterling job of being on screen (within a screen) for nearly all of it, as we see the story develop through her eyes. It’s that final third however, that lets the side down. It’s the only point in the film where the plot feels overly strained, with the writers seemingly forced to ram a square peg into a round hole. In doing so it taints all the good work gone previously, with the film’s finale coming across somewhat of the waving of a white flag, as it clearly runs out of steam.
Still, it does a great job overall of illustrating what’s achievable with this new genre, developing a tangible sense of drama just from a computer screen and some open virtual windows.
In any case, it doesn’t appear to be a genre that is going to have its plug pulled anytime soon – certainly if Bekmambetov has anything to do with it at any rate.