There’s been much chatter about all the things The Social Network has spawned: Jesse Eisenberg’s stardom, Justin Timberlake’s acting cred, Aaron Sorkin vs. the Internet, Mark Zuckerberg as pop culture icon, and so on and so forth. But what no one’s really properly gauged—unless we missed it—is the impact it might have on movies that use Facebook as a plot enabler. Cue XOXO, a new thriller from in-demand Black Swan scribe Mark Heyman, that aims to play the Zuckerberg brainchild for scares.
The LA Times has the story, and according to a studio exec who’s read the script (which is currently making the Hollywood rounds), it’s “an upscale genre story about a complicated relationship.” So, Black Swan set in the social media world. But the movie has less in common Swan and The Social Network, as much as it does with Catfish, that other buzzy Facebook movie form last year. In that film, the protagonist met a love interest on Facebook, and things got freaky when he discovered she wasn’t who she said she was. In XOXO, “a twentysomething man who meets a female contemporary on Facebook and begins a digital relationship with her, only to find the object of his affections take the relationship to an obsessed and stalker-y place.”
The Times article makes note of the classic problem faced by Hollywood filmmakers making movies in and about an increasingly digitized world: How do you make interacting online look visually compelling? Apparently the script bypasses these problems by using “stylized visual sequences” during all the friend requesting, but we find cinematic online interactions—specifically chatting—to be especially disconcerting, because there’s no way of knowing who’s the on the other end. If the scene createas the right amount of tension, a single bleep indicating a new message can be terrifying. Check out this scene from Me You and Everyone We Know, which, eventually played for laughs, is still kind of freaky.