Grimcutty (2022), a somehow disappointing horror movie about parental overprotectiveness, has roots in real-life stories and Internet challenges.
The tradition of online challenges, often commencing with weird texts from unknown numbers, has a disturbingly rich history.
If you’re not too deep in the topic – or simply don’t have kids – then perhaps the most notorious name that rings a bell is Slender Man. Images of an eerily tall, sleek figure wearing a dark suit with no facial expression have circulated the web and thrown thousands of parents over the edge. Slender Man traumatized both kids and parents after a 12-yeard old girl was stabbed to death by her peer back in 2014, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Those less acquainted with Internet-based stories may be baffled at these stories’ number and variety.
In 2019, another creepy image surfaced called The Momo. The creature with bulging eyes and greasy, unhealthy hair isn’t even a randomly generated weird sketch that somehow got popular. In fact, it’s a sculpture of a studio that designs horror movie props. Its author – Keisuke Aiso – created the art piece as a reimagining of a Japanese folk creature, Ubume.
As is the case with these out-of-nowhere ghoulish trends, Momo also incited a game of disturbing challenges. Teenagers would start by texting a WhatsApp number and get bullied into all sorts of dares designed to end up in something utterly malevolent – like self-cutting or even suicide. If one fails to complete the challenges, the typical punishment is leaking personal information, such as photos. That was the premise of Shut Up and Dance – an episode of Black Mirror – before the conclusion flipped the whole message upside down, leaving the conversation even more paranoia-inducing. In order to prevent their private lives from being exposed, kids completed the wishes of those who managed the game.
Now, all of it sounds scary, but as we read in an article by Rolling Stone, the reality isn’t so grim (pun intended). A folklorist Benjamin Radford argues that these online challenges are fueled by the paranoia of parents who wish to regain control over their kids’ lives. Becoming overprotective triggers auto-immunity reactions and causes even more carelessness among kids. That, in return, creates an online hunting ground for predators who bring the likes of Momo to life.
When looking from the parental perspective, not knowing who might be on the other side of the web, talking to a kid, and probably having disturbing intentions sound like good enough reasons to act swiftly and decisively. That’s what Grimcutty (2022) attempted to capture by showing the parents, played by Shannyn Sossamon and Usman Ally, go to extreme lengths to protect their kids – taking away the phones and locking them in a box. The director John Ross picks too many fights along the way, though – throwing in some bitter words regarding parental influencers or negligent cops – but his intention is in the right place.
And Grimcutty (2022) makes another curious turn by letting out the evil entity only as far as adult paranoia goes. The more restrictive the parents become, the more dangerous Grimcutty becomes. A pretty great mechanism for a horror villain, isn’t it?
When looked at from a purely artistic point of view, Ross’ Grimcutty (2022) is garbage – a forgettable piece of average horror filmmaking. But there’s a reason for a growing number of horrors that venture into exploring online challenges, controversial influencers, and, more generally, the dangers of the online world. With the creation of Metaverse and the subsequent growth of the importance of existing online, we’re bound to see this subgenre become the experimental grounds for filmmakers. Hopefully, in forms far superior to Grimcutty (2022).
Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned in the Momo story too, particularly about the control over Internet-borne haunts. Aiso, the sculptor who designed the original piece of art, announced the creature’s death to reassure the kids. Aiso commented:
It doesn’t exist anymore, it was never meant to last. It was rotten and I threw it away. The children can be reassured that Momo is dead – she doesn’t exist and the curse is gone.
Doesn’t it cement the view that any of these challenges are as real as we make them?