#FLOAT Movie Poster | ©2022 XYZ Films

#FLOAT Movie Poster | ©2022 XYZ Films

Rating: Not rated
Stars: Kate Mayhew, Kaya Coleman, Scarlett Sperduto, Miguel Muñoz, Grant Morningstar, Christina Nguyen, Ophelia Lichtenstein, Matt Wise, Cristobal Reyes
Writer: Zac Locke, based on an original idea by Katey Taylor
Director: Zac Locke
Distributor: XYZ Films
Release Date: December 9, 2022

#FLOAT has an okay horror premise, as far as it goes. A cadre of twentyish friends head out in an R.V. to their annual vacation spot on what is normally a shallow and tame river.

The group includes vlogger and would-be Internet star Kali Fyre (Kate Mayhew), her boyfriend Jackson (Miguel Muñoz), her best friend Madison (Scarlett Sperduto), their friend Dee (Kaya Coleman), plus on-again, off-again couple Blake (Grant Morningstar) and Zola (Christina Nguyen), along with their five-year-old daughter Thea (Ophelia Lichtenstein), since they couldn’t get a sitter. The gang have rented a cabin and bring inflatables of the type more often found in swimming pools, as well as generous helpings of alcohol and drugs.

But there are some changes this year. Their friend Chuy died. They believe he overdosed and then drowned. A world-class harbinger type (Matt Wise) shows up unannounced at the cabin door on their first night there. He warns the group not to go on the river this year, because there’s something in it. They think he’s crazy and ignore him.

Well, fair enough, they don’t know they’re in a horror movie. Is the stranger dangerous, or is there really something in the water? Or could it be both?

There’s some friction between the friends, with neither Jackson nor Dee especially supportive of Kali’s online ambitions, Zola being jealous, and Blake being a jerk. However, none of this rises to the level of creating suspense.

Again, this doesn’t make #FLOAT a bad movie. Plenty of low-budget horror has less character development before it gets going. There’s some good toggling back and forth between formats as we switch from the point of view of Kali’s iPhone to widescreen narrative. The scenery is handsome (the locations include the Russian River and parts of Oregon), and there is some nicely eerie atmosphere.

But – spoiler alert – half an hour in, #FLOAT punctures its inner tube, as it were. Little Thea disappears from the group while she and everyone else are in the water. Her parents go onto the bank to search for her, but nobody else does. Instead, they sit in the water bickering about social dynamics. When Zola runs back to the group, having abandoned the effort to find her child (she’s got good reason to be hysterical, but still …), only one other person goes off to attempt to locate Thea.

This might work if writer/director Zac Locke, working from an original idea by Katey Taylor, seemed to be attempting to make a point about how self-obsessed his characters are. Yes, Kali’s vlog is a source of contention, but it doesn’t explain why everybody barely raises a finger when a very little girl goes missing in a wilderness area.

This kind of non-reaction to child endangerment from the protagonists wouldn’t pass muster in a post-apocalyptic tale where adults are inured to death. For a lot of viewers, there’s no coming back from this in terms of either caring about the characters or trusting the storytelling.

There’s actually some good writing in a discussion of the meaning of a pinky swear later on, and a few good gore visuals, but it’s hard to discern what we’re meant to focus on and what are red herrings.

To add to the oddness, there’s a music video for “Cold World,” performed by Eric Reprid and directed by Shamlo Faek, interspersed through the end credits. It’s a decent enough video, but what it’s got to do with #FLOAT is as oblique as much of the rest of the film.

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