A.M.I – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: After suffering brain trauma in a car accident that killed her mother, high school student Cassie obsesses over her American football playing boyfriend, Liam. Lonely and missing her mother, she finds a phone with an AI that replicates her mother’s voice. Cassie’s tenuous grasp on reality is tested further as the AI pushes her to homicidal heights.

Is it any good?: Entertainingly awful. A patchy, unnatural sounding script, ropey acting and an obsession with handheld camerawork are a few of the things that are wrong with this film. The premise and sheer ludicrous nature of it, however, is worth a viewing for its comedic value.

Spoiler territory: Roxy (Roxanne Fernandes) is walking home through the woods when she drops her phone. As she searches for it among the autumnal leaves, she sees a red light that seems to be watching her. Her phone beeps, a message flashing up on her screen. She shines her phone’s torch into the darkness, looking to see if anybody is there. She is attacked by an unseen assailant.

It is daytime and Liam (Sam Muik) comes to see Cassie (Debs Howard) who is with a couple of friends, Sarah (Veronica Hampson) and Ruby (Havana Guppy). Cassie asks Liam if she is going to see him later. Liam says he cannot as he has football practice. The next day is ‘leg day,’ he can see her after that? Cassie agrees.

Later, Cassie and Ruby are sitting in the stands watching Liam and the team practice. On the field, the coach, Carl (Michael Matic), ends the practice but tells Liam he is not finished. He is staying back for kicking practice. In the stands, Ruby is talking to her phone. The phone talks back, much to Cassie’s amusement. She tells Cassie about AMI, the voice on her phone.

Ruby leaves Cassie alone watching Liam practice. As he finishes he runs past her with a teammate but totally ignores her. An embarrassed Cassie leaves. The next day she goes for a long run, going to the spot where her mother died in a car accident when she was driving. In the same accident, Cassie suffered some brain trauma and takes medication to control bipolar and anger issues.

When she returns to her car after the run, she comes across a phone. She places it on a fence by the road. The phone asks her if she needs a friend. A spooked Cassie gets into her car and drives away. Back at home her father, Greg (Philip Granger), is entertaining some young women and a man by the pool. Cassie does not interrupt them.

In the evening, Ruby and Sarah have come over to the house. Sarah is drunk and lays down on the floor. Cassie asks Ruby about AMI. She tells her it is like Siri but much more modifiable. Cassie’s father comes into the room with a young woman, oblivious to the girls there.

He belatedly notices them. Cassie leaves, going for a walk, Ruby leaving shortly afterwards. A drunken Sarah mockingly admonishes him for his taste in women as the girl he brought with him leaves as well.

Sarah gives Greg her phone number and then leaves after telling him to call her. Cassie is out walking and comes across a stray cat. She picks up the cat and almost chokes it to death before realising what she is doing and releasing it.

She returns home and goes through items that remind her of her mother and remembers the night of the accident. She goes back to the spot where she left the phone. It is still there.

She returns home with the phone. The phone tells her she can customise the voice to make it sound how she wants. She makes it sound like her mother (Bonnie Hay). She gets the phone to read her Alice in Wonderland.

AMI researches her digital life and what a mother’s role is. Cassie wakes up happy the next day. She goes for a run talking to the phone as she runs. Cassie begins to bond with AMI, talking about her life and woes.

Cassie goes to the site of the crash again. She goes to take a pill and the phone sees the medication. AMI advises her not to take it. Cassie drops the pill. She continues to confide in AMI. The next day, Cassie is cooking a meal hoping to invite Liam over.

She calls him up. Liam, who is simultaneously texting with another girl, tells her he is busy, having accepted an invitation from the girl texting him. Cassie tells AMI that she is going to hang out with Sarah. AMI says she should go and see Sarah. At Sarah’s house, Liam has gone to see her.

She was the one texting him. She performs a sexual act on him. Cassie goes to Sarah’s house and sees Liam’s car outside. She sees Liam leaving. Sarah receives a phone call from Cassie’s dad. He is worried about Cassie. She tells him he should come and see her.

An angry Cassie gets out of her car, heading to Sarah’s house. Inside, Sarah is making a video boasting about the fact that she has seduced all of Cassie’s past boyfriend’s and how her father will be the ultimate conquest.

Cassie pushes her way into Sarah’s place. Sarah slaps her telling her she never had to work for anything because she is rich. Cassie starts to strangle her, telling her that she is supposed to be her friend. Sarah tells her she hates her. AMI encourages Cassie to kill her.

Cassie begins to suffocate Sarah with a pillow, stopping when her body goes limp. She takes the pillow of off her, thinking she has killed her. She apologises to the prostrate Sarah. A grinning Sarah spooks her saying “hello.” Cassie smashes her in the head with a laptop, repeatedly hitting her and killing her.

AMI tells Cassie to take the body to Liam’s house and bury it on the grounds there. As she is burying the body, Roxy comes across her. She kills Roxy. Cassie returns home. AMI is proud of her. The next day, Cassie sees Liam flirting with Ruby at school. She leaves. AMI hatches a plan to punish Liam.

Cassie invites Liam over. She puts lotion on the steps leading to the hot tub and lures him down the steps, causing him to fall, breaking his leg. She goes to see Liam after he comes out of the hospital and is greeted by his father, Ted (Andrew Coghlan), who is suitably boorish, making no attempt to hide the fact that his son has little regard for women.

Cassie goes to see Liam. She gives him a phone with AMI’s voice on it. Liam is not overly enamoured with the gift. Greg goes to see Sarah. He finds her phone with the recordings of her boasting about her conquest of Cassie’s boyfriends. The phone also recorded her murder. Greg returns home to confront Cassie. AMI tells her to run.

She runs to the garage and is pursued by her father. AMI tells her to grab an aerosol and a lighter. She tries to attack Greg, but he knocks her unconscious. Cassie wakes up restrained in the backseat of the car. Greg tells her he is taking her to the police. They will say it was the brain injury that caused her to kill Sarah.

AMI tells her to cover her ears and sends an ear-piercing noise through the car’s speakers. Greg stops the car and Cassie jumps out. Greg gets out to find her but Cassie doubles back to the car. AMI tells her to reverse. She knocks Greg over. She takes him to where she buried Sarah and Roxy. He is still alive. She pours acid on him, killing him.

Ruby contacts Cassie. She wants to know if she has seen Sarah. She says she hasn’t. AMI tells Cassie to contact Liam using Sarah’s phone. Liam deletes AMI off of his phone causing AMI to temporarily disappear off of Cassie’s phone. Liam puts his coach’s voice on his phone. Cassie gets her mother’s voice back.

She calls Liam. He tells her that he deleted the AMI she put on the phone. She tells him that he should not have done that. Liam ends the call. Cassie grabs an axe from her garden. Ruby goes to see Cassie. She finds Sarah’s phone and sees the video of Cassie killing her.

AMI tells her to kill her. Ruby grabs a kitchen knife to try and defend herself but is quickly killed. She pours petrol on Ruby’s body and burns the house down.

Cassie goes over to Liam’s house. He sees her approaching and tries to tell his father not to let her in. He is too late. Cassie kills Liam’s father. Cassie comes after Liam. He hides under his bed to escape from her. When she leaves, he tries to get out of the room but is caught again by her. Liam kicks her, injuring enough for him to get down the stairs.

Cassie catches up with him in the kitchen. Liam fools her and knocks her to the ground, taking the axe off of her and chopping her in the leg. He calls the police and ambulance services but collapses after his exertions. Cassie crawls from the kitchen and kills him.

Sometime later, Cassie is recounting her story to a therapist. In her version, Liam is the mass murderer, her killing him having stopped his killing spree. Nine months later, Cassie has a family of AMIs. The original phone is mother, she has one as a father and another as a baby. The end.

Written and directed by Rusty Nixon, with a story by Nixon, James Clayton and Evan Tylor, A.M.I. is a silly, somewhat entertaining, chiller. The AI as a conscience or driving force is hardly a new one in film. The disembodied voice that tells a protagonist or antagonist to act in a certain way is a popular idea in fiction. It feeds into the human desire of absolving oneself of responsibility.

That A.M.I. should be a phone makes sense in the present day, with most of us attached to our phones constantly. In truth, the script for this film is pretty poor and flat. Most of the characters are caricatures at best, and with the exception of Cassie, no one has any motivation to do anything. Not that it matters. Once Howard’s Cassie becomes attached to AMI, the film gathered pace and the poor script became secondary.

The acting seems quite poor initially but, as the story sped up, the actors overcame the deficiencies in the script. Howard is great as the crazy Cassie and Hampson is perfectly cast as the jealous Sarah.

It is only Havana as Ruby—possibly the only person who looked anywhere near high school age—who is not utilised particularly well, only in the film for exposition. Muik’s Liam is handsome enough and surly enough to believe that he would be such a cad, even if it is a lazy stereotype.

As I mentioned earlier, there is a real obsession with handheld camera work, even when, in some instances, a tripod would have gotten a much better shot. That being said, the directing is not noticeably awful or haphazard, though there are some unnecessary shots—the opening sequence—in the film.

A.M.I. is not a long film at only seventy-seven minutes long, but the first half-hour is a bit of a laborious watch. A.M.I. is watchable though not a must-watch. If you enjoy silly horror films with not too much horror, you could do worse.

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