Billed as the world’s first ASMR horror short, “Tingle Monsters” is creative, clever, and thrilling. The film is a simple and straightforward story of vlogger Dee (Alexandra Serio) who returns to live streaming after a hiatus that was caused by a bad breakup. Dee has a large number of loyal followers who’ve missed her, and they’re glad she’s back. What starts out as a q&a session with her fans eventually goes horribly wrong.
For those who don’t know, ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, the subjective experience of what is described as low-grade euphoria characterized by positive feelings and a tingling of the skin most commonly triggered by auditory or visual stimuli. Many ASMR videos have hosts talking in hushed whispers, which can “tickle” the eardrums. ASMR is gaining popularity among internet circles, and the hair-raising format works extremely well here.
Authenticity also works in the film’s favor, as it is set up like a real live stream video, complete with a chat window that moves the story along. If you showed this to a random internet audience and didn’t tell them it was fiction, they’d likely believe it was real. Things are fine and dandy until one viewer makes some nasty sexual comments, and Dee blocks him. She also shuts off all the viewer comments, so they can see her and chat amongst themselves, but Dee can’t see or read what they’re saying. It becomes a matter of life and death when the woman is put in actual, physical danger.
Serio, who stars in, wrote, and directed the project, makes the most of limited resources and settings, as everyday things like the simple framing of her open closet door or home’s hallway become suspenseful. There’s a powerful subtext at play too, as the film quietly comments on the link between internet harassment and physical violence against women.
“Tingle Monsters” is a unique short that explores the prevalence of sexism in a world dependent on technology. It’s simple, inventive, and has a lot to say.