A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Do Not Reply is a cautionary (but also unpleasant and exploitative) thriller about a shy teen girl (Amanda Arcuri) who agrees to meet an online admirer and finds herself kidnapped -- along with other girls who've been brainwashed. Expect extremely graphic violence, including some committed by a man against teen girls: stabbing, slicing, slamming bodies, slapping, and strangling. Blood and dead bodies are shown. A teen boy grabs a girl's hand and places it in his crotch, and a teen girl is given a knockout drug. Characters kiss, and sex is suggested between the kidnapper and the teen girls. A teen girl drops her towel and shows her naked bottom (and a brief side view of her breast) to her younger brother. Racy talk among teens includes phrases like "d--k pic," "go down on him," etc.; "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and more are also used. Teens drink hard alcohol in two scenes.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In DO NOT REPLY, shy, lonely teen Chelsea (Amanda Arcuri) lives in the shadow of her popular cheerleader sister. Even her best friend, Mia (Ivon Millan), has been swept away by a new boyfriend. Chelsea takes refuge in attentive messages sent by an anonymous online admirer, and, after a few weeks, she agrees to meet him in person for a Halloween party. After accepting a drink from him, Chelsea wakes up in a dirty basement. Her captor, Brad (Jackson Rathbone), tells her that now her name is "Sadie." She must bleach her hair blonde and wear her cheerleader uniform, along with two other captive women (Kerri Medders and Elise Luthman), and do everything the volatile, abusive Brad tells her to do. But Chelsea is determined to escape. She meets another woman who's hidden away with a deadly stab wound (inflicted by Brad) and learns the secrets that she'll need to set her plan in motion.
Is it any good?
Intended as a cautionary tale with a message, this grim, unpleasant thriller is too close to raw exploitation to take seriously; all that remains is a picture of cruel abuse and victimized women. While Chelsea is portrayed as heroic, never giving up hope of escape, it's difficult to reconcile that side of her with the earlier take on her character. And the other women are completely indoctrinated, proclaiming their "love" for Brad and competing for his attentions. It's all very distressing.
Technically, the movie -- helmed by the father-son team of Walter and Daniel Woltosz, both making their feature directing debut -- looks good, with a strong sense of claustrophobia, prison-like rooms, and the use of footprint-catching shag rugs. But the pair can't quite find a rhythm that allows for any kind of release from the despair. Brad is played, as you'd expect, as a psychopath with coiled, quiet moments and explosions of temper (with, of course, a shirt buttoned all the way up to the collar), and he's abhorrent. It's difficult to get away from the "thriller-y" aspects of Do Not Reply to get at the truth of its supposed message.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Do Not Reply's violence. Does it feel more intense and shocking when it's directed at women? How does it feel when it is directed at the male kidnapper? What's the difference?
How does the movie portray the safety of online communities and relationships? Do you think it's trying to send a specific message?
How is sex depicted? What values are shown?
What's the difference between a "cautionary tale" and an "exploitation movie"? Which do you think this one is? Why?
- On DVD or streaming: October 2, 2020
- Cast: Amanda Arcuri, Jackson Rathbone, Kerri Medders
- Directors: Daniel Woltosz, Walter Woltosz
- Studio: VMI Worldwide
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 100 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: disturbing violent content, bloody images, sexual material, some language and brief partial nudity
- Last updated: October 3, 2020
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