Cyber horror movies are growing exponentially by the year, whether it has to do with creating new (and cheaper) ways of filming or with the opportunity to appeal to millennials. As for every sub-genre of horror, throughout the last 20+ years cyber horror flicks have offered us some great movies, some decent ones and a lot of unwatchable stuff.
A.M.I. (which stands for Artificial Machine Intelligence) is a Canadian cyber horror movie revolving around Cassie, a teenage girl whose mother died in a terrible car accident and who’s now dating a douchebag football player. Cassie’s best friend is also a terrible human being, since she has an affair with Cassie’s boyfriend (Liam). The only way Cassie finds to fill the void of her empty life is to form a co-dependent relationship with a software on her phone (kind of like Siri), which Cassie turns into a mother figure. Things take a dark turn very quickly in this 75-minute-long picture, as the software pushes Cassie to commit murderous acts against the people who make her suffer.
Although the premise sounds very silly, I’m of the opinion that no subject is terrible if the story is presented well and has heart (to paraphrase from that fantastic film titled Midnight in Paris, 2011). Besides, the plotline of A.M.I. has the potential for interesting commentary, spooky sequences and unconventional visuals.
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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Beginning with the visuals, A.M.I. manages to create quite a few interesting shots and sequences when the POV we follow is the software’s. Those scenes have a very futuristic look and quite a neat framing, albeit they don’t fully appear as original, since Minority Report (just to list a notorious movie) did that more than a decade ago.
The director, Rusty Nixon (on his third attempt at horror cinema), also understands how to appeal to mass horror audiences by using jump-scares to spook them but executing them in a rather unpredictable way. Unlike many subpar horror flicks that prepare the viewer for the jump-scare to come, which is not only manipulative but also pointless, A.M.I. frightens the viewer when they least expect it.
Unfortunately, every other aspect of the movie doesn’t really work, starting with the social commentary (either about technology or about mother-daughter relationship) that is either non-existent or superficial and weak at best. Since most of the issues with A.M.I. revolve around its narrative and plot points, I’ll issue a spoiler-warning any time I give away some details about story and characters, so that you can skip those parts if you really want to watch this flick.
To my understanding, A.M.I. takes place in current times, but the technology of this “killing software” is way more advanced than what it’s at out disposal at the moment. [mini-spoilers] For example, the movie implies that the software can imitate to a T the voice of any person in the world, and Cassie chooses her mom’s voice for her phone. Logically speaking, that doesn’t make any sense: how did the developers upload every single human voice (there are currently 7.7 billion individuals on the planet!) in the software? How much memory does this A.I. have? Even if we assume that the software can only imitate these voices, how much would it cost to buy it? It’d be ground-breaking technology that, I’m assuming, would cost more than a mortgage!
In this sense, A.M.I. reminded me of the new Child’s Play movie, that I bashed on quite a bit in my review due to the many logical inconsistencies, which apparently horror fans are really quick to overlook.
These rational issues create even bigger problems with the movie. [mini-spoilers] In fact, A.M.I. never attempts to explain whether the software controls Cassie’s life – which is impossible, given the premise of the movie’s universe – or she’s just a psychopath who attaches herself to an artificial entity and doesn’t question any of the horrific things this entity asks her to do. Aside from being logically faulty, this scenario also gives us an extremely unlikeable main character: Cassie is either a buffoon who obeys to the orders of a machine or she’s so mentally incapable that she kills people for cheating on her or betraying her friendship.
Another major issue with this cyber horror flick is that every other character is very unlikeable or just a plain asshole. This includes Liam (who only cares about nailing as many girls as possible and play football), Cassie’s best friend (who’s just mean and stroppy), all the adults (disposable and dumb) and the software itself, which is manipulative and evil, despite not being designed to be that way (I’m guessing, since the movie doesn’t give any answers on this front).
The interaction between these unlikeable characters is, also, very surface-level and dull: it’s filmed constantly with the lame “shot-reverse-shot” technique and the dialogues are very stilted. As opposed to making these people relatable to the target audience (which was the filmmakers’ intent), they come off as pieces of wood written very poorly.
Although the sound-design is rather well-done, the music for A.M.I. is truly misplaced and annoying to listen to. Aside from an orchestral song that’s really effective, every other part of the score seems to come from those lame early-00s rom-coms produced by Disney Channel. It’s a bad score onto its own, let alone in a horror movie where the sound should be atmospheric and terrifying.
To sum it up, A.M.I. is an amalgamation of tropes and conveniences, a PG-13 indie horror flick that resembles the worst of Hollywood cash-grabs. Despite its lazy and silly premise, a movie like this has the potential to delve into interesting social commentaries, to develop characters in a distressful scenario, but A.M.I. only utilises the old tricks in the book to make a forgettable horror picture that appeals to millennials and is easy to digest with only a few jump-scares to offer. I do believe certain horror viewers will find this flick to be quite entertaining, and if what you read about jump-scares and teen-drama is enough for you, then you should give it a chance. Otherwise, if you’re looking for something decent and creative to watch, you should steer away from A.M.I.
Get a copy of these cyber horror movies if you like the sub-genre:
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