NERVE (2016) Reviews and overview

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Nerve is a 2016 American techno-mystery thriller survival film directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman (Viral; Paranormal Activity 3 and 4) and written by Jessica Sharzer (American Horror Story), based on Jeanne Ryan’s 2012 novel of the same name.

The film stars Emma Roberts, Dave Franco and Juliette Lewis (Cold Creek ManorFrom Dusk Till Dawn; Cape Fear), and revolves around an online objective truth or dare video game, which allows people to enlist as “players” or “watchers” as the game intensifies.

In the US, the film was theatrically released on July 27, 2016 by Lionsgate. It received mixed reviews and, as at August 9, had grossed over $30.5 million against a reported budget of $20 million.



High school senior Venus “Vee” Delmonico (Emma Roberts) receives an email from California Institute of the Arts reminding her to either accept or reject admission that day. Vee longs to leave her home, Staten Island, for college, but she is too cowardly to tell her mother about her admission.

Venus’s friend, Sydney (Emily Meade), becomes popular in Nerve: an online reality video game of objective-focused “truth or dare” where people either enlist online as “players” or pay to watch as “watchers”. Players accept the watchers’ dares, receiving money rewards that increase with the danger of the dare when completed successfully…



Nerve looks fabulous and the pace is evenly adrenalized, which makes up for clichéd characters, a concocted premise and commentary that is a bit on the nose: That we are cyber prisoners, and that keyboard bravery is fake when protected by Internet anonymity. At its best, the film entertainingly explores the strange charisma of online voyeurism.” Brad Wheeler, The Globe and Mail


“Like i-LIVED, Nerve is a mutation of the escalating dare game scenarios of 13 Tzameti and 13 Game of Death, retooled for the era of Pokemon Go and brushfire social media crazes … it benefits from the zeitgeist-surfing enthusiasm of directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who segued from the trend-naming documentary Catfish to a couple of Paranormal Activity sequels and fun, engaging performances from the slightly overage stars.” The Kim Newman Web Site

Nerve’s ending doesn’t work because it uses hacking as a deus ex machina, and also because it tries to come up with a scenario in which an anonymous internet crowd feels chastised and shamed, something the real world has yet to manage. But its fictional game is eerily plausible, as are the liberties its players allow it.” Allison Willmore, BuzzFeed


Nerve does a better job with its style and pacing than it does with its characters but, ultimately, Vee is likable enough for us to stay on the ride with her. At only 96 minutes, Nerve is short enough not to overstay its welcome and, despite a lackluster final 20 minutes, it proves to be solidly entertaining.” James Berardinelli, Reel Views


Cast and characters:

  • Emma Roberts as Vee, the main protagonist and player of Nerve
  • Dave Franco as Ian/Sam, Vee’s partner and fellow player in Nerve
  • Juliette Lewis as Nancy, Vee’s mother
  • Emily Meade as Sydney, one of Vee’s friends
  • Miles Heizer as Tommy, one of Vee’s friends
  • Kimiko Glenn as Liv, one of Vee’s friends
  • Samira Wiley as Azhar, one of Tommy’s friends
  • Ed Squires as Chuck
  • Brian Marc as J.P.
  • Marc John Jefferies as Wes
  • Colson “Machine Gun Kelly” Baker as Ty
  • Casey Neistat as Himself, a player

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