Dir. Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost. USA. 2010.

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Catfish is a horror movie for our times. You won't find crazy chainsaw wielding monsters lurking in the darkness in this one though and you certainly won't see any shadows crawling along the walls. Instead, this documentary is about the terrifying everyday dangers that people face in the world of social networking.

Nev Schulman is an up-and-coming photographer from New York City. After seeing one of his photos, 8 year old Michigan-based artist Abby sends him a painting of it and, overwhelmed by the gesture, they instantly become Facebook friends. Soon, Abby's good looking half-sister, Megan, attracts Nev's attention. As he and Megan hit it off, his brother and best friend, Ariel and Henry, decide to film the growing and deepening relationship. However, things soon take a turn for the sinister as Nev discovers that Megan isn't all she's made up to be.

Catfish tells the same kind of story that we've seen in the news time and time before, yet this documentary succeeds because it has such a huge heart. In the first 20 minutes of the movie you truly feel for Nev and connect with his love for Megan. These moments are filled with such warmth that, even knowing that things are soon to turn ugly, you still feel moved as he hears her voice for the first time and compulsively scrolls through pages of her Facebook photos. When the aforementioned turn does occur, therefore, a chilling moment in the movie, we truly feel Nev's confusion and experience how crushed the man really is.

It also succeeds as being a thoroughly engrossing mystery story. Like Nev, you won't want to just leave the story at the moment that he realises that things are wrong. Instead, you want to dig deeper and find out who 'Megan' really is, who is real and who is fictional, and just what her plans were for the New York photographer. As this slowly unfolds before your eyes, Catfish becomes an enthralling experience that is tense, shocking and disturbing.

Despite its low production values, Catfish is a spectacularly made documentary from two very talented filmmakers. Its sense of emotion and its ability to place you right alongside Nev is unbelievable while the use of Facebook photos and Google Maps instead of establishing shots and stock pictures give it a contemporary feel.

A haunting documentary that will stay in your mind for weeks after its finished, Catfish gives a human face to one of the internet generation's most important issues. You won't want to accept your next anonymous friend request on Facebook.

Daniel Sarath

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