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John’s Horror Corner: Unfriended (2015), an indie Techno-Horror about a Skype session with a vengeful spirit.

February 2, 2016

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MY CALL: As silly as it may sound, this neither scary nor gory indie Techno-Horror about a Skype session with a vengeful spirit was somehow VERY engaging to me. If you can get me interested in a film that takes place entirely on a computer monitor about a Skype call gone wrong, then you’ve succeeded as a filmmaker. Contrary to all expectations, I found myself introduced to characters that feel like “real people” doing “normal things” and reacting credibly to incredible circumstances–I liked them a lot. These kids all did a excellent job and so did the director and writing team!
MORE MOVIES LIKE Unfriended:
Other technology-linked horror (or “techno-horror”) include White Noise (2005), Pulse (2001, 2006), Strangeland (1998), Other Halves (2016), Stay Alive (2006) and One Missed Call (2003, 2008).

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Contrary to all expectations, I found myself introduced to characters that feel like “real people” doing “normal things” and reacting credibly to incredible circumstances–I liked them a lot.

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After reviewing a video of her friend Laura’s (Heather Sossaman; Desecrated, Fairy Tales) suicide online and the embarrassing party video (posted by her “friends”) that led to her suicide, we meet Blaire (Shelley Hennig; Teen Wolf, Ouija), a cute normal teenager Skyping with her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Storm). They playfully joke about blue balls and virginity and make plans for prom night when they are ambushed on a group Skype call by a couple of their friends…along with a mystery caller who joined the group. What’s weird is that this mystery caller must have answered for Mitch and Blaire, who was in the middle of a strip tease when the call was answered.

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The group (Matt, Val, Adam, Jess, Ken) considers the mystery caller to be a hacker. But things get immediately more disturbing when Mitch and Blaire begin to receive harassing messages from Laura’s Facebook account (or whoever the hacker is)–so Blaire “unfriends” her account.

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This hacker begins to type messages via the others’ accounts and uses their accounts (like Facebook) to post incriminating photos of each other, all the while insisting that it is, in fact, the deceased Laura. Conceptually, this may not sound so cool or edgy, but all this is happening in “real time”–so 90 minutes to us viewers is 90 minutes in the lives of the characters–and Laura threatens that if Blaire hangs up all her friends will die.

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The only hokey thing about this movie are the deaths. While I giggled with satisfaction at the blender scene, the scene is choppy as if from poor internet signal.

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This may annoy some viewers but I liked the flavor and it allowed this low budget flick work for me. Evidently Laura’s vengeful spirit is possessing those who slandered who one by one, and makes them kill themselves. She also gets them to turn on each other, playing vicious mind games with them.

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Who’s up for a game of Never Have I Ever?

It’s all a little juvenile. But then, that’s simply the age group of the protagonists. And I must say how nice it is to see horror victims behaving in ways that largely make sense. They may not think of everything we would, but they are in tough situations which makes their absent-mindedness all too credibly human. What’s more is that they use cell phones, texting, Google searches, Facebook, Youtube, Skype and Gmail…making this the opposite of the communicative vacuum that is the “cabin in the woods” scenario.

I was especially impressed at the nuance in Mitch and Blaire’s message typing; the pauses, the deletions and rewrites, the delays while thinking about how to word something or whether or not to click send, even the scrambling between message boards and Facebook chats. It all felt very believable, very normal–but panicked. You really need to see it to understand, but this simple thing (i.e., the depiction of “typing messages” in a movie) has perhaps never been done better. This doesn’t feel anything like found footage horror, but something else altogether. I almost want to call it social media horror or console horror–“techno-horror.”

This neither scary nor gory movie was somehow VERY engaging to me–and I’m an over-analytical guy in his mid-30s. I’ve got to say, if you can get me interested in a film that takes place entirely on a girl’s computer monitor about a bunch of teenagers on a group Skype call turned-highway-to-Hell, then you’ve succeeded as a filmmaker. These kids all did a great job and so did the director and writing team!

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Unfriended;

 

 

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