Based on the article by Judy Bachrach, originally published in Vanity Fair, docudrama Uwantme2killhim? is set three months before popular, charismatic 16-year-old soccer player Mark (played by Jamie Blackley) stabbed his friend and was arrested on June 29, 2003 in North London. He calls himself a hero and says it was “for the greater good.”
Flash-forward months before, Mark has been chatting online with a flirty blonde named Rachel (Jaime Winstone), who’s in the Witness Protection Program and lives with her angry, abusive boyfriend, Kevin. She asks him to look after her weird, picked-on brother, John (Toby Regbo), who attends the same school. The two becomes unlikely mates, and then soon after, John tells Mark that Rachel is dead. Mark assumes Kevin killed her, so he tries taking matters into his own hands, until M15 terrorism agent Janet (Liz White) alerts Mark online that he should step away and let them go after Kevin.
Though not of the conventional sort, Uwantme2killhim? is a horror film. It’s a ripped-from-the-headlines cyber-nightmare that should resonate even as it predates social media networks. However, a true story doesn’t automatically translate to a plausible story on screen. 2012’s Compliance (also based on a true story) did a much smarter job of conveying the manipulation of gullible people, and there are better films on the same subject of cyber-manipulation (Catfish, Trust, and Disconnect). The film, director Andrew Douglas’ first feature after his 2005 remake of The Amityville Horror, arrives a little late to the party that it feels slightly prosaic and more gimmicky than it had to be. The biggest insight the film has to give is that Brits are just as gullible as Americans.
Director Douglas and screenwriter Mike Walden want to pull a fast one on us, even when we already know where it’s headed (and that’s even without reading the article that which the film inspired). There’s a cheat of too many clues being dropped (i.e. photographs), showing us characters on the other side of the chatroom (who oddly speak out exactly what they type), and telegraphing the obvious plot twist with a key double-casting choice.
Sure, the point is to have the viewer constantly question Mark’s allies, but as we wait for Mark and the plot machinations to catch up with us, the film becomes quite the stretch, to the point that it starts testing the patience. What’s more, the Mark-Rachel relationship seems so shallow that it needed to be given more time to breathe in order to give Mark’s obsession a more chilling impact. Despite Douglas’ master plan not working as well as he had hoped, Uwantme2killhim? is still credibly acted by Blackley and Regbo and it’s not uncompelling. It just should have been better.