How is Hooked Up the first and only horror movie to be shot completely on an iPhone camera? I mean, we’re living in an age of found footage oversaturation that’s exploring every possible movie-viewing-medium, be it through watching a computer screen (Unfriended) or wearing concealed spy glasses (V/H/S), so the fact that there isn’t an ENTIRE found-footage-iPhone movie in existence makes me think this stale subgenre may have some fresh vitality left. Unfortunately, none of that reinvigorated energy emerges throughout Hooked Up – an aggravating bit of bro-horror that’s built on a few cheap jump scares, disgusting dialogue delivered by unlikable leads, and a sloppily undercooked haunted house story that’s dropped like a bad cell call.
Pablo Larcuen’s hormone fueled sex-cation opens with the introduction of Hooked Up‘s two lead characters, Tonio (Jonah Ehrenreich) and Peter (Stephen Ohl). As Peter slouches over their apartment toilet, purging his system after a night of heavy drinking, Tonio rants on and on about the amazing time they’re going to have plowing their way through Barcelona’s eager and willing female population. Upon their arrival, the two man-children hit a few Barcelona clubs, and eventually meet two local hotties who are down for a private after-party. With nowhere else to go, Katia (Natascha Wiese) suggests they use her grandparents house for privacy, and the two boys gear up for a night of sexual bliss – but the good times don’t last very long.
You’d think my disapproval of Hooked Up would stem from grainy iPhone camera images and limited viewpoints, but the film’s most distracting factor is two aggressively moronic lead characters who redefine the boundaries of genre stupidity. You know those annoying dudes at bars who use words like “smash” and refer to woman as sexual objects without an ounce of sarcasm? Well, those are the two relentless personalities you’ll have to endure for an hour and a half, as Tonio and Peter go from chugging Cuba Libres to screaming at each other about vengeful spirits. All the misogynistic vileness that’s spewed out of these two brotacular stereotypes becomes a chore to choke down after only a few short minutes, but trust me, it only gets worse from there.
Hooked Up isn’t your average paranormal thriller, because as one of the girls reveals herself to be an evil force, a psychological arc overtakes the boys in a way that’s more confusing than their decision to continue filming the night’s violent exploits. During the film’s introductory scene, we learn that Peter has recently broken up with his girlfriend Lisa – an act that Tonio might or might not have had something to do with. This causes Peter to slowly sink into a distorted mental state that turns the friends on one another, specifically when Peter accuses Tonio of staging the whole tragic night as a ploy to steal his now ex-girlfriend. As if possible demons, severed heads, and a dead corpse weren’t distracting enough to keep their minds on the prize of life? You’d think that this would at least make Peter more interesting on camera, but his actions become even more nonsensical and detestable as time goes on, especially when he pointlessly lashes out at Tonio’s lady-friend Noemi (Júlia Molins).
For *allegedly* being shot on an iPhone, at least Larcuen makes us question big-budget production values by presenting a found footage watch that looks like so many previous shaky-cam efforts we’ve endured before. Hooked Up feels no less nauseating, frantic, and blurry than most similar genre titles, and cinematographer Daniel Férnandez-Abelló bests the technological challenge put before him – but it’s still just more of the same. Larcuen doesn’t create a particularly scary film, and the few sparse jolts are expected, drawn-out walks down the same pitch-black hallway. Doors open, phones ring in the distance, and a masked killer chases people around with a knife – but it’s all very calculated and lacking a fearsome danger.
Hooked Up is a torturous psychological thriller without brains, masked as a paranormal revenge flick about tourists who get caught in a vacation from Hell. It’s a twisted maze of dimly-lit rooms and barbed-wire barricades, but none of the situational tension amounts to much because of two main characters who get preoccupied with a petty best-bro tiff. Even in the face of certain death, conversations turn into jealous acts of rage and neanderthalic assertions of dominance that completely ignore an always-lurking maniac who may or may not be a ghost. If anything, Hooked Up is a PSA about the dangers of not abiding by the “bros before hoes” man code, but as it exists, Larcuen’s almost-erotic thriller is no scarier than getting lucky with the last girl left in the bar at closing time.
Hooked Up is the first movie to be filmed on an iPhone, but it's certainly not the first horror flick to waste a decent story on two wholly unlikable lead characters.