Christopher Proeh says Verified is a clever horror short exploring the adverse effects of influencer culture.
Written, directed, and produced by Ali Chappell, VERIFIED is a horror short film that tells the story of a lonely Instagram hopeful, Nicky (Arrielle Edwards), desperate to become a successful social media influencer. She spends her time live streaming everything she does in an attempt to gain more followers. The film opens with Nicky waking up and checking her Instagram. To her dismay, she only has 546 followers. She documents every aspect of her life, starting her day off with a live make-up tutorial for five viewers. While on an outing, she is unexpectedly attacked and bitten by a zombie on a live stream triggering a viral response. It’s a blood-soaked commentary on the societal pressures of social media and Nicky’s desperate need for validation from others.
VERIFIED doesn’t shy away from poking fun at social media influencers starved for attention and recognition. Instead of seeking medical attention, Nicky capitalizes on her horrifying experience and the viral response the horrific crisis is getting her. She’s finally gaining the followers and viewers she’s always wanted and continues live-streaming despite the clear and present danger as she slowly deteriorates.
The film presents two viewpoints: Nicky’s online influencer persona and her behind-the-camera persona, the real her. I enjoyed the social commentary centered on the fact that most of what influencers post and the alluring picture of perfection they present is somewhat fabricated. There is an empathy barrier between content creators on social media and the consumers of that content. Everything is bright and joyful when we see Nicky live-streaming, but when Nicky is off-camera, she’s vulnerable. The tone shifts under cold gray and blue hues, evoking an eerie, depressing and unsettling feeling. The film perfectly showcases the duality of everyday people and their online personas.
Edwards is exceptional in her portrayal of Nicky. She brings an insightful and authentic quality to the character, and her depiction of mental and emotional anguish is believable. VERIFIED shines a light on the extreme lengths a person will go to for followers, likes, comments, and shares. Chappell brilliantly composes a story about social media's adverse mental and physical effects, using Zombies as an allegory for the monsters we can become when seeking the spotlight.