One of the more fun results of the age of infinite apps is serialized fiction, presented in installments so tiny that calling them “digestible” is sort of like calling a single almond “dinner.” There are good chat fiction apps that use texting as the medium for compelling stories. There are bad romance novels that are more fun to read with GIFs.
There’s also Yarn, a chat fiction app owned by Mammoth Media. Mammoth raised $13 million in a Series A round of funding today, as reported by Variety, and the release of a new horror series Hack’d (!!!) was timed to the announcement. Hack’d stars Musical.ly influencer Kristen Hancher, and was directed by Chris Le, whose biggest credit is a robot drug cartel movie called Juarez 2045.
I love horror movies and influencers, and I absolutely love an opportunity to indulge in almond-sized entertainment products while on the job. So I watched all of Hack’d immediately!
It turns out Hack’d is a bizarro morality tale in five “episodes,” each of which begins with a short text message conversation between two friends who are watching a frenemy’s Instagram Live story. After they chat for a few seconds about how fake she is, and about how she never talks to them anymore because all she cares about is influencing her followers, the episode cuts to her video. The influencer, Hannah, is being tormented by a masked villain named Hubris (!!!), who is going to shoot her little sister in the head if she doesn’t wash off all her makeup and “start the cleansing process.”
She obliges, crying hysterically, and he announces that he is now going to shoot her little sister in the head if she does not cut off her pointer finger, poetic justice for her crime of falsely accusing her teacher of rape and getting him sent to prison for eight years. Hannah’s friend Taylor sends her other friend Jess a text that says “OMG OMG haha this is crazy! she’s going viral.” After approximately five minutes in Hannah’s world, our story is almost done. Hannah must now swallow a handful of red or green pills. One is poison, one is not. This is for the crime of being a bad influencer: “You have a platform, a position of power, and you wield it irresponsibly.”
She eats one of the handfuls of pills and dies. Season two is coming in February!
The early-morning horror adventure is over before my coffee is even done brewing, and I can’t say that I am scared. But I can say that I am physically shaking due to some other emotion — maybe having to do with the experience of hanging out in an app marketed towards young people, watching a story about how young women are idiotic narcissists who are so tempted by social media fame that they ruin lives by lying about rape? And then die?
According to Variety, Yarn’s users are currently reading / watching 1.6 billion “episodes” per week, and they pay $2.99 per week to access them. That’s more than Netflix costs! If you want to read the first episode of Hack’d, you can do so for free. Please don’t.