The horror genre is taking a technological twist with “Unfriended,” an innovative thriller that employs the world of the internet as a stage for a chilling tale. The film draws from many aspects of our modern society: the issue of cyberbullying and the ubiquity of the internet and social media.
As the lights in the theater dim, we are immediately thrust into the world of the internet. The entire film is showcased through the perspective of high school student Blaire Lily’s Mac computer. And it looks like every typical teenager’s desktop: an array of tabs including Facebook, Forever 21, and YouTube. We soon learn that today is the anniversary of Blaire’s friend Laura Barns’ death. After an anonymous user posted a video of Laura intoxicated at a party online, she committed suicide. As Blaire starts receiving Facebook messages from her deceased friend’s account, we know the horror is coming. A Skype call then ensues between Blaire and five of her friends and, not surprisingly, takes a turn for the worse.
An anonymous account is added to the friends’ Skype call and cannot be removed. As the puzzled teens scratch their heads, the account suddenly types messages to them via Skype instant message, claiming to be the ghost of Laura Barns. Of course the friends assume this is an ill-mannered prank, but then stiffen when the ghost asserts that she is angry and wants revenge, insisting that one of them posted the offensive video. The ghost then initiates a sadistic game of “Never Have I Ever,” which forces the friends to admit the lies they’ve told before facing their fates.
“Unfriended” has all of the elements of a typical horror movie: jump-scares, blood, and a supernatural antagonist. But what sets it apart from popular teen horror films like “The Cabin in the Woods” is the way it uses symbols and issues of our modern society to both frighten and entertain viewers. It makes mundane tasks such as toggling between tabs a suspenseful experience; our hearts pound as Blaire frantically tries to decrypt police codes she hears on the fatal Skype call while answering the terrifying messages from Laura’s ghost. Unfortunately, cyberbullying has become an omnipresent issue in today’s technological world. The film relates to teens today by utilizing this topic as the basis for its plot development. A pioneer of a new horror genre, “Unfriended” is sure to be a cyber-scare.