Nestled within the classic films and straight-to-video movies in the horror section of Netflix is an interesting little Bobby Boermans-directed Dutch gem from 2013 called App.  What makes App interesting isn’t the movie itself, but the “second screen” technology that the movie uses to immerse the audience in its world.

At the beginning of App, the viewer is told to download an app onto their phone or tablet by texting the word “IRIS” to 97-000 (the app can also be found by searching for IRIS in Android and iPhone App Stores).  Once installed, the Iris App will use the device’s microphone to sync itself up with the movie, and the fun begins.

App (2013)
Hannah Hoekstra and Iris in App (2013).

App is about a young college student named Anna (Hannah Hoekstra) who goes to a party and drinks way too much.  When she wakes up the next morning, there’s a mysterious app on her phone called, you guessed it, Iris.  Similar to the iPhone’s Siri, Iris is a voice activated personal assistant type of program.  At first, Anna finds the app useful, but eventually she notices that the app seems to have a mind of its own.  As the app gets more and more invasive, Anna finds that Iris can’t be deleted from her phone, and even replacing the phone doesn’t get rid of the app.  It’s like Iris is Anna’s virtual stalker.

The film itself is average at best, a well-made thriller without any real shock or awe.  The second screen experience is what makes App fun.  During the course of the movie, the viewer’s phone will vibrate to alert them that there is something going on there.  The second screen content varies; sometimes it will be simply an alternate angle of what’s going on in the movie, other times it will be a text message conversation between two characters – it’s generally little things like that.  The movie is perfectly coherent and watchable without the second screen, but the supplemental content adds a cool dimension to an otherwise mediocre movie.

App (2013)
App (2013)

With technology advancing faster than ever and filmmakers always searching for the next big thing, App is an intriguing idea.  The second screen concept is clearly in its infancy, but App will be considered a highly influential film if it catches on.  It definitely seems to lend itself better to VOD releases, as the constant glow of audience members’ cell phones in a theater while they check the extra content would be downright annoying.  As of now, it’s limited to just being a William Castle-esque gimmick, but who knows?  The potential for coolness is there.  In the hands of the right director, second screen technology could be the wave of the future.

App is streaming now on Netflix.

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