Review and Interview with filmmaker Alexandra Serio for her frighteningly relevant short film ‘Tingle Monsters’

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A young ASMR vlogger finds out just how dangerous the internet can be for women.

I was in eighth grade the first time my family got a home computer. I signed into AOL and saw a chat room. less than 1 minute after entering I was pounced on by a screen name that could have been anyone. Thankfully, I knew better than to engage and immediately left. 10 years later, my youngest sister was groomed by a man in another state in his early 20’s. She was one week from running away with who she thought was a 16-year-old boy. We got a heads up from a trusted friend she had told. I’ve been harassed online now for the last 25 years. I’m used to it but that doesn’t make those moments any easier or acceptable.

Tingle Monsters is a short film that wows for many reasons. Tackling online abuse in a new and frightening way through the gaze of horror and ASMR. For those who don’t know what ASMR is, well, it’s a popular YouTube phenomenon that might seem strange for anyone on the outside. It stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. An ASMR artist will use highly sensitive microphones, usually whispering into them, sometimes using objects to make intense noises, or tapping on the microphone to cause a sensation in the brain often referred to as tingles. It is intended to produce euphoria. Many people use ASMR to relax or fall asleep. But like any instance where a woman puts herself in the public eye, she is subjected to harassment and sexualized no matter what her intentions may be. Since the beginning of the internet, women, in particular, are made to feel small, powerless, and the danger is very real.

Filmmaker Alexandra Serio pulls from personal experiences to tell a terrifying tale that taps into the gross culture of certain individuals hiding behind a keyboard. Here is my interview with Serio and the trailer below. You can watch Tingle Monsters on Vimeo tomorrow!

Alexandra, thank you so much for taking the time to chat! As a woman with a social media presence both personally and professionally this film obviously resonated with me. Certainly, while ASMR is a newer business, the internet is not. What made this project personal for you? What sparked the idea?
An overwhelming majority of ASMRtists are female and view what they are doing as a certain caregiving service, so that type of altruistic nurturing felt like fertile ground to build a narrative on top of, examining how violence against women begins with words and how this affects women’s real-life treatment.

Horror feels like such an appropriate genre for this subject, although you could have easily written a thriller or even a drama. When did that specific choice get made in the writing process? By the way, the opening trope was brilliant. It immediately gave me anxiety even before it was nodded to in the film.
Horror is such a rich, comprehensive genre that not only pushes the medium of filmmaking forward but also keeps the lights on in the movie industry. In this day and age it’s a privilege to have people watch your work, and horror’s built-in audience helps amplify the message.

Including the chat bar in the film is key to the storytelling. Did you write all the responses or source them from multiple people?
For Tingle Monsters I ostensibly wrote 2 scripts. One for what is happening onscreen and one for what is happening in the live stream chat. 

Now to get technical… What did you shoot the film on?

We shot Tingle Monsters on an iPhone XS for a budget of $2,800 with a cast and crew of 3. 

It’s mostly one long take. Am I correct in thinking there are some sneaky cuts in there?
Tingle Monsters is designed to look like a one-shot. In practice, it is two long takes stitched together. 

Once people watch, I know they’ll come away with so much more. I will be interested to see the gender-based reaction. How would you hope it lands with men, in particular?

I am interested in all the reactions to the film because misogyny isn’t something men do to women, it’s something people do to women. The film is designed to be a verite experience mimicking something everyone has witnessed in their lives, if not experienced themselves—the harassment of women on the internet. My hope is it starts a conversation about something that we have tacitly accepted as normal for far too long.

Watch Tingle Monsters Trailer on Vimeo.

Official Selection Sweeping the Film Festival Circuit Including:

 Cleveland International Film Festival 2020*
Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival 2020*
Final Girls Berlin Film Festival 2020
Montclair FIlm Festival 2020
Oxford Film Festival 2020
Filmquest 2019
 
*Oscar-qualifying festivals 
ABOUT ALEXANDRA SERIO (WRITER/DIRECTOR/ACTOR/PRODUCER):
Alexandra Serio is a Webby-nominated director, writer and producer based in New York City. She is co-founder and chief content officer of Nameless Network, a media and production company that creates video programming for the smart-phone generation. Guerrilla filmmaking and female-driven narratives are her passion. Her latest film “Tingle Monsters” examines the link between internet harassment and physical violence against women.
 
 CREDITS:
 
Dee: Alexandra Serio
 
Man: Kareem Rahma
 
Director: Alexandra Serio
 
Writer: Alexandra Serio
 
Producer: Nameless Network
 
Cinematographer: Maxwell Nelson

Editor & VFX: Kostyantin Bakalow
 
Sound Mix: Dean White
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