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Internet-based thriller draws fans to theaters

By Xu Fan | China Daily Europe | Updated: 2017-01-22 15:51

Hollywood's young-adult thriller Nerve does not have Chinese stars or scenes shot in China, but it is making waves in China - the world's largest internet market, where half the population is online - thanks to its internet celebrities.

Internet celebrities are ordinary people striving to become online sensations by showing off their talents.

Such celebrities in China have millions of fans, generating huge profits. Some of the most popular reportedly earn more than 300,000 yuan ($43,300; 40,638 euros; 40,638) monthly.

This may explain why Nerve, which examines the dark side of the internet-celebrity craze, has struck a chord with many young Chinese, who now form a major part of the theater-going population.

Since it opened on the Chinese mainland on Jan 6 - the same day as the tentpole Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - Nerve has become the second highest-grossing movie among the Hollywood imports currently on the country's big screen.

Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, the duo known for the internet fraud-themed documentary and series Catfish, the 96-minute film returns to a familiar zone: online violence triggered by the web's anonymous environment.

The film is based on a livestreamed game that gives weird or risky dares to players and cash rewards to the most-watched winners. It begins with tasks such as kissing a stranger or running away from a public place naked.

In the movie, the protagonist, a high-school girl played by American actress Emma Roberts, is dragged into a lethal trap where viewers want to see a win-or-die competition between her and her competitor, played by Dave Franco.

Despite the film's popularity, most Chinese viewers reported feeling a bit disappointed with the latter part of the film. While they expected it to take an in-depth look at internet culture and its negative effects, the film's conclusion failed to meet that expectation.

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