This horrifying YouTube short film starts out with relaxing ASMR and then includes a terrifying twist
- A new feminist
horrorshort called "Tingle Monsters" explores ASMRand the online harassment of women through a terrifying narrative with the occasional jump scare.
- In the
short film, which stars director Alexandra Serio, an ASMR creator starts a livestream with fans, only for the stream to be overtaken by sexist comments.
- "It's tough being a woman and existing on the internet," Serio told Insider. "You have women who try to help and no matter what they're doing, they're sexualized and they're abused for it."
The real-life issue of online harassment takes a terrifying turn in the short horror film "Tingle Monsters," which is available to watch on YouTube after completing a pre-quarantine festival circuit. The roughly 11-minute horror short, directed by and starring Alexandra Serio, features an ASMR livestream gone horribly wrong.
"That was a big hurdle at the beginning with festivals, the familiarity – or lack thereof – with ASMR," Serio told Insider. "At any screening I'll have a 50/50 split audience of people who have heard of ASMR and people who haven't. It's interesting going into it, there's a lot of recognition but there's also a lot of 'What was that? Why am I tingling during this film?'"ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response (a pseudo-psychological term created by those who experience the "tingles" phenomenon during specific audio triggers), and it's a subgenre of YouTube videos designed to relax viewers. Over the past five years, ASMR has gone from a niche subcommunity to a cultural phenomenon, and while many ASMR listeners use the videos to fall asleep, others view ASMR as a meme or even as something sexual (though most in the community see this as a mischaracterization). Advertisement
The way ASMR videos work is that a creator uses tried-and-true "triggers" to elicit a physical "tingling" reaction from listeners. Whispered voices, tapping sounds, and roleplay scenarios are some of the popular "triggers" that give ASMR enthusiasts a tingling, calming sensation that allows them to relax. Apart from helping many people fall asleep regularly, ASMR has anecdotally combated issues like insomnia, anxiety, and depression for some listeners.
But to the uninitiated, or for those who don't receive the "tingling" sensation from ASMR videos, the art of ASMR may seem strange and even sexual. There's an ASMR pornography subcategory that exists as a polar opposite to mainstream ASMR and the sexual attention given to pornographic ASMR creators has bled into the mainstream YouTube subgenre, too.
'Tingle Monsters' explore the phenomenon of ASMR alongside online harassment that targets women on the internetAside from a sometimes unwanted sexual connotation, female ASMR creators also have to contend with the environment on online harassment that plagues women on the internet, which is the larger takeaway from "Tingle Monsters." Serio was inspired by her own observations of how women are treated online, as well as The New York Times columnist Amanda Hess' 2014 story "Why Women Aren't Welcome on the Internet."
"It's tough being a woman and existing on the internet," Serio told Insider. "When I think of ASMR, and not just women, I think just in general in the community, they're doing something altruistic with their time. They're people who are practitioners who care about how other people feel."So taking this core narrative about how women are treated on the internet and making it the most altruistic kind of subgenre of internet activity, I thought that was an interesting dichotomy. You have women who try to help and no matter what they're doing, they're sexualized and they're abused for it." In "Tingle Monsters," (SPOILERS AHEAD) a well-meaning ASMR creator named Dee is plagued by two types of intersecting male violence – first, online sexual harassment, followed by an actual masked intruder.Advertisement
Serio told Insider she wanted to make it as realistic as possible by shooting the livestream like actual ASMR, on an iPhone XS. Viewers may experience the relaxing "tingles" during the first few minutes of the faux livestream, only to be replaced by fear as the narrative shifts from something innocent to something much scarier.
When Dee first starts doing an ASMR livestream, she tells her live audience that she had to move, and when they ask why her old social media accounts were deleted, Dee mentions a controlling ex. Then, as Dee continues the livestream, men in the live chat start making sexual comments about her appearance, and Dee turns off the chat, chastising the inappropriate onlookers. Once the chat is gone, a masked intruder appears behind her – we see Dee's followers trying to get her attention, but having turned off the notifications, she has no idea the intruder (we assume it's her ex) is standing behind her. Eventually, he attacks Dee, and as she stabs him with the pencil she was using as a prop, we see the people in the live chat are still demeaning her, calling it staged, and saying she deserved it."I really wanted it to feel exactly like you were watching ASMR, along with commentary while you're streaming live," Serio said. "It's really important to me that you're transplanted into that experience, because everyone has the experience of watching a woman get harassed on the internet."Advertisement
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