REVIEW: Tingle Monsters (2020)
Do safe spaces for women really exist? Or are they something of a myth when it comes to the modern day woman using any online platform to provide the audience with content? Tingle Monsters takes a simple and trending internet subject and uses it to shine light on the toxic communities that continue to infiltrate the spaces women have created for themselves and others to feel comforted and protected.
Tingle Monsters comes from director Alexandra Serio (Change of Plans, Miracle Fishing), who through her own experiences has created an ASMR horror short that speaks volumes in just a mere 10 minutes. Dee is an ASMR vlogger who creates online content to help soothe and reduce anxiety amongst her community of dedicated supporters. During a live Instagram event she sees how one comment from an anonymous watcher spawns written abuse, and the livestream begins to turn into damaging chaos.
Using the catalyst of ASMR for this set-up resonates strongly with many female content creators, and drives home the reality that you do not need to be creating sexual content in order to be subject to sexualised abuse online. Tingle Monsters shows that we sadly live in a world where regardless of the content you create, if you are a particular gender, you are always at danger of experiencing violence through words. Dee has built an online community and safe space for her followers to connect with her, but one small comment during the livestream enables a plethora of people to feel comfortable sexually abusing Dee through their words, even continuing to do so when her life is in danger.
Serio has spoken about how most stalking comes through unsolicited calls, texts and messages before it manifests itself into anything outside of the virtual realm. Which is why it’s so important for films like Tingle Monsters to continue highlighting the fact that women are in danger when abused online. As someone that has personally experienced fear through obsessive online behaviours and aggressiveness, this is a short horror film that really made me shiver from horror at the understanding of how frightening and damaging it can be to receive messages of hatred.
We watch Dee on-screen with the comments section flashing up next to her, making the audience see how a simple interaction quickly spirals into something far more sinister. The ASMR aspects help to place the audience in that safe, comforting and relaxed atmosphere and therefore genuinely make us feel like our protected viewing space has been violated when the real-life invasion events take place. It’s an experiential contrast that helps to immerse us in this virtual world. As Dee is attacked in her own home, it shows the comparison of how we feel shocked when a safe home is invaded but often don’t feel the same when a safe space online is invaded. Albeit different settings, one in real life and one online, both of these events are a violation against a safe space belonging to a woman and therefore should be viewed as just as dangerous. Society does not accept someone breaking into someone’s private and safe home, yet we seem to allow this infiltration online when one person or more breaks into a safe space and turns it into something traumatic.
Tingle Monsters might be short in length, but it is a powerful horror film that brings to attention a very prevalent yet under spoken about topic that is damaging women content creators online. Serio states that she believes we can make a difference by continuing to highlight this serious and threatening behaviour, and using female-driven narratives to accomplish this. Tingle Monsters is a provocative and significant horror that shows terror starts with a simple word.
Directed by: Alexandra Serio
Written by: Alexandra Serio
Cast: Alexandra Serio, Kareem Rahma