Is it me or was Catfish hyped as more of a horror movie? Going in, I knew that it was about a guy meeting someone on Facebook, heading to her town and realizing she wasn’t exactly who she said she was. I’ve looked at a pair of different trailers on YouTube and both of them have kind of jaunty music and don’t go into full-on horror-baiting, but I probably focused on the scene of them driving down the driveway in the dark and the pull-quote about Hitchcock at the end of the trailer posted below. So, I went in expecting a scarier tale, but that’s not what Catfish is. SPOILERS ahead because it’s impossible to talk about this movie without giving things away.
The deal is that Nev’s two friends are making a documentary about his relationship with a girl named Abby who sends him paintings. He winds up talking to Abby’s mom Angela and her sister Megan, becoming friends with them on Facebook and even developing a romantic relationship with Megan. As things move along Nev starts finding holes in Megan’s stories prompting he and his buddies to just show up in Michigan (where Megan, Abby and Angela live). As it turns out (and here’s the real SPOILER), Megan doesn’t exist and Abby’s not a painter, it’s all just Angela with several different profiles and a crush on Nev. Abby exists, she’s just a regular kid. Making everything even more complicated, Angela’s married to a guy whose two boys need to be taken care of all the time.
Don’t get me wrong, I think the realization that the person you’ve been talking to is really someone else is scary, but I have no idea how anyone could find this movie Hitchcockian. It’s an interesting ride, but the end of it is less psychological thriller and more psychological revelations from a liar. There’s a huge difference there and it lies in the complete lack of dramatic tension. To me, the movie felt more like a show that would be on the Learning Channel or Discovery about weirdos who lie on the internet. Again, it’s not a bad movie, but it just wasn’t what I thought it was and what it actually was wasn’t super duper interesting for me as a film.
The other big mystery is whether it’s an actual documentary or not. The subjects all go by their own names and the filmmakers swear it’s all true, but I don’t buy it. I guess I’m just too skeptical. Plus, the filmmakers, including Nev, all seem way too cool about how much and how often they were lied to. And honestly, I don’t think knowing whether it’s real or not makes the movie more or less interesting. If it’s real, then I’ve seen elements of this on TV before, if it’s fake, it’s a well made one and I give the filmmakers props for that. Either way, it’s a good movie for anyone obsessed with Facebook or other social media should check out as kind of a “be careful, this happens” warning about the internet.