by Daniel Baldwin
Influencer-themed genre fare seems to be all the rage these days. The latest entry in this quickly-expanding subgenre is writer/director/co-star Jeff Ryan’s Mean Spirited. This satirical slice of would-be spookery sees a pair of childhood friends (and former vlogger business partners) attempting to reconnect over the course of a weekend vacation in the Poconos, but the realm of the supernatural has other plans for the two of them.
There is quite a bit of insightful commentary and scathing satire of YouTuber culture, influencer vapidity, and modern social media posturing on display here. All of this is reinforced by intentional editing choices that mimic many vlog styles, all the while sending them up in the process. We are gifted with a mix of both completed vlog footage, as well as unedited video, which allows for the public façade to be peeled back on these characters when there’s no one for them to put on a show for. It’s in these moments that the film hits its stride.
Unfortunately, all of it is mired by a wobbly execution of the film’s genre elements. Comedy is an insanely subjective genre, more so than even horror, but even taking that into consideration, a little bit of obnoxious YouTuber humor goes a long way. Even in a satire, too much can push the grating needle into the red, and that’s a trap the filmmakers fall into here. Add in the fact that the actual scares come way too late, and the end result is a horror comedy that never manages to find a healthy balance between either genre.
Mean Spirited may not be one of the better entries in the influencer-themed horror comedy subgenre, but if you’re a fan of found footage, mockumentaries, and/or YouTuber culture, you might still find some enjoyment within. You might also perhaps want to consider avoiding weekend getaways to the Poconos with an estranged friend.