A.M.I. (2019)

Rating: C+

Dir: Rusty Nixon
Star: Debs Howard, Sam Robert Muik, Philip Granger, Bonnie Hay

I would be lying if I tried to claim this is a “good” movie on most objective levels. Yet, was I not entertained? Was I not entertained!? Yeah, somewhat shamefacedly, I must admit I was. It’s a lurid potboiler of a B-movie, playing on fears ranging from the Internet to teen sexuality. It’s palpable nonsense, barely coherent and often ludicrous. So what? I enjoyed it a tad more than the not dissimilar M3GAN. The central character is Cassie (Howard), a 17-year-old who lost her mother in a car accident, which left her with brain damage, and has been in a somewhat fragile mental state since. But she has a boyfriend, football player Liam (Muik), and a best friend, Sarah.

The bad news? Liam cheats on her with slutty Sarah, who now has set her sights on Cassie’s dad, Greg (Granger). Making matters worse, Cassie now has a Siri-like app on her phone, AMI (voiced by Hay). It’s imitating her late mother, and not exactly giving Cassie the best advice. To be specific, it’s encouraging her murderous reactions, and then advising her on how to dispose of the bodies. How much this is Cassie losing it, and how much is the app, is unclear. I’m leaning towards the former, since Liam has the same app on his phone. He just ends up being the Final Boy, in a climax which is a nice reversal of the usual horror approach, normally featuring a young woman being stalked by an unstoppable male killer.

That said, the very final scene is a doozy. I’m not sure if it’s that in a good way or not. You will remember it, I pretty much guarantee. I can’t say the same applies for the rest of the film, in particular an opening scene which doesn’t appear to fit into the rest of the narrative. Similarly, the mechanism by which Cassie comes in to possession of AMI is weak – she basically finds the phone, lying by the side of the road. There’s a strong lack of appealing characters too. Liam and Dad are run by their dicks, while Cassie lost my sympathy when she almost casually strangled a cat.

Fortunately, I thought there was enough meat on the bones to make up for the flaws. There are some nice moments of sardonic black humour, and occasional cynicism about high-school life that’s appealing. For instance, Liam repeatedly yelling, “WHAT DO I EAT? VICTORY SANDWICHES!!!” is a spot-on parody of inspirational jock bullshit. Could have used a bit more sex ‘n’ violence, but it probably counts as ahead of its time. [One morning, I’m going to wake up, and find everyone who downloaded that Temu app is speaking Chinese and waving Mao’s Little Red Book.] It all feels a bit like an episode of Black Mirror, written down the pub on a Friday afternoon – before they thought better of it, and discarded the beer-mat in question.