By the time Youssef Delara and Victor Teran’s psychological thriller Snap ended, I was shaking. Most of the other filmgoers in the Violet Crown left as soon as the credits started rolling. Snap is a disturbing portrait of contemporary society that is difficult to watch because we know that it’s not far-fetched like other thrillers and mysteries that provide quick, easy escapes from daily life. Snap almost moved too fast for the audience, ensuring that we didn’t get a solid foothold on the story. It was troubling.
Snap is also the best movie that I’ve seen at SXSW this year. Directors Youssef Delara and Victor Teran have crafted a thriller that lets us examine violence, mental illness and self-mediation in our culture in a way that is meditative instead of forceful. The filmmakers are aware that there are no simple answers to complex problems. Instead of presenting us with a straightforward view of troubled characters, they give us a multitude of angles from which to view the story.
At its heart, Snap is the story of Jim (Jake Hoffman), a young dubstep musician who is haunted by his past. Jim meets Wendy (Nikki Reed), an aspiring social worker who loves dubstep and is eager to help those who are struggling. The two journey into L.A.’s underground dubstep scene together and follow a constantly moving path of chaos to the film’s stunning conclusion. It’s hard to say much about Snap; it needs to be seen and felt in person.
Composer Reza Safinia created a score for the film that is absolutely breathtaking and that carries us into the mental space of its characters. Described by Safinia at one of the SXSW showings as a progression of dubstep and drum-and-bass, the soundtrack fits seamlessly with the movie and adds to the suspense (and psychological terror) that audiences are left to feel at the end of the movie.
The film’s cinematography also deserves some serious praise. Some of the film has been edited so that it visually mimics the beat of dubstep. The effect is similar in some ways to that seen on video remixes but manages to create an entirely different emotional mood. The combination of superb dramatic performances, an amazing soundtrack, and stellar editing makes Snap one of the most profound psychological thrillers of the last 10 years.
But let’s get back to why the audience seemed so antsy to flee after the movie finished. Maybe they were behind schedule for other showings. Maybe they aren’t Q&A people. Or maybe—and this is where I’d place my bet—they’re unsure of what to do with a movie that makes them uncomfortable. Actor Edward James Olmos, who was at the screening, said that Snap would be a “very controversial movie.” Of course, he’s right.
Victor Teran explained that he and Delara wanted to make a movie that explored some of the extremely intense incidences of personal violence that show up in news reports across the nation. Though they had begun work on the film prior to more recent mass shootings, Snap addresses the mental health issues that have been central to discussions about those acts of violence. The film starts a dialogue, even if it is an uncomfortable one.
In the long run, though, Snap is important because it does something few films manage to accomplish: It makes the audience feel the gravity of violence. It’s not gore removed from emotional consequence. It’s disturbing because we know we’re looking at something true; we know that the simple answers individuals of all ideological stripes like to offer are insufficient. Snap reminds us that we live in a society that suffers extreme shock from violence, yet has a hard time accepting that there may be things in this world that can’t be fixed.
Watching Snap is more than worth the discomfort it may cause you. It will run on a loop in your mind long after you’ve left the theatre. You’ll simultaneously think you can’t bear to see it again and can’t wait for it to be released on DVD or Blu-ray so that you can watch it at home. It’s simply incomparable.
Snap also stars Thomas Dekker and Scott Bakula.