Depictions of a digital force—be it a robot, AI, or a hacker—taking hold over a human’s fate is nothing new, especially in movies. But the upcoming film Nerve, directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (who together directed the documentary Catfish) spins this somewhat tired trope into something fresh. The fact that it stars Emma Roberts, Dave Franco, Juliette Lewis, and Miles Heizer doesn’t hurt, either.
The thriller begins the way just about every film revolving around teenagers does, with some polite teasing about the “good girl” and how she “needs to take more risks” and “live a little.” Peer pressure sets in and she agrees to play Nerve, an online game that dares its participants to do just about everything, from kissing a stranger to scaling a massive building, and live streams it all for whoever wants to watch. Predictably, things take a turn quickly after Roberts and Franco’s characters team up. The “watchers” steal their identities, drain their bank accounts, and turn their lives into one massive, life-threatening game. It all culminates in one coliseum-like showdown as the two are put in a situation where they have to turn on each other.
Nerve is written by Jessica Sharzer (American Horror Story, Scream Queens). It hits theaters July 27.