In her gloomy new short about an online troll, director Anu Valia presents an unsettling view of internet connectedness. The callous young woman in the titular role, known virtually as SushiHat, is bored with life if not constantly judging others on social media. Her cruel comments (“nice gunt”) or incessant frowny face emojis splattered across photo albums seem to come as natural to her as breathing. But the thing is, there are real people on the other end of those digital transmissions.
Connected somehow but ambiguously is a teenage boy in a hospital bed clinging to life in a coma. His mentor, an aging indie rocker, waits outside the room distraught. When he comes into contact with SushiHat, who claims to be visiting her grandfather in the connecting room, they spark up a conversation. It becomes a game of withholding information, masterfully realized by Valia, but slowly we learn about the the boy in the coma and his mentor/music teacher. None of it paints a pretty picture.
There’s a similar darkness at the heart of Valia’s 2015 short film “Drifters” (featured here), but with “Troll” she doubles down, offering a searing indictment on the state of online anonymity and cruelty. For all its darkness, there’s also a pitch-black humor in the performances by co-writers Will Janowitz and Hari Leigh, both excellent. In the end, "Troll" makes a convincing case that the internet is turning us into monsters :( and for that we should probably take heed. (14 minutes). Directed by Anu Valia. Written By Will Janowitz and Hari Leigh. Produced By Rachel Nederveld and Hari Leigh. DP Lowell A. Meyer. CAST: Hari Leigh, Will Janowitz.