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Spree
Credit: RLJE Films

You probably know Joe Keery as the badass babysitter with a sailor suit and picture-perfect hair flow on Stranger Thingsbut that image is about to change fast: all thanks to a bowl cut and a helpful dab of coconut oil.

Oh, and the blood.

"People just fixate on really like optical superficial things, like Joe's hair," director of the upcoming horror movie Spree, Eugene Kotlyarenko, tells EW. "I told Joe, we have to do the opposite of whatever Steve Harrington's hair is for [Joe's character] Kurt. It will stretch the parameters of how people understand him as a performer."

Keery stars as a new kind of monster in Spree (out now). He's a single-digit wannabe social media influencer named Kurt who gets the idea to hoard attention on his Instagram by shocking his viewers. Once Keery starts driving for rideshare, his possibilities for going viral become limitless, and his thirst for attention becomes bloodsport.

"We spent a long time watching countless videos and compilations. Just diving deep into YouTube culture and the single-digit influencers," Keery adds.

Keery and Kotlyarenko shot the film last year. Keery's fateful hair cut came in a decision between him and the director. And no, they did not have to go to Netflix for approval.

"This is an independent film," Kotlyarenko says. "Joe was very giving with his time and his process."

Kurt's world is told entirely through Go-Pro and iPhone cameras, simulating a casual deep dive someone might have after stumbling onto a strange video of someone experimenting with water bottles. In this case, it's @KurtsWorld96.

Spree
Credit: RLJE Films

There's an innocent yet sad element to Kurt's search for attention, and it's one we're seeing more and more often in the era of influencer culture, according to Keery.

"The unlocking moment for me was when Eugene and I came across the idea that Kurt is in this world where quote-unquote sharing is good. Kurt is trying to be a helper. Kurt is really trying to help, but by helping others, he's really just trying to help himself."

Kotlyarenko adds: "A lot of these people have a lack of awareness. They think that their motivation for attention is hidden because they think they're being slick about it. But their desperation is really transparent."

Keery acknowledges his younger audience on Stranger Things will likely come to see Spree. The implications of that were only in the back of his mind when considering the part of Kurt.

"You read so many things that have similar themes or similar characters. This was shocking and really stood out. That wasn't really at the forefront of my mind," he says.

Keery's inspiration did come in part due to Stranger Things: his stardom. "Over the beginning of Stranger Things, I've been withdrawing from social media. Subconsciously, I think that was kind of one of the reasons why I was interested in exploring this movie," he says. "It's so embedded in our culture. It's a critique that hasn't been represented yet."

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