Cy­ber Killer

The ghost’s in the ma­chine in this we­b­cam hor­ror

SFX - - Red Alert -

On­line bul­ly­ing can have

deadly con­se­quences, but it’s never been as lethal as it is in Un­friended, a su­per­nat­u­ral hor­ror film in which a cy­ber- bul­ly­ing vic­tim ex­acts re­venge on her on­line tor­men­tors from be­yond the grave, via Skype. “The things we do in our non- dig­i­tal lives vary greatly from coun­try to coun­try, but our be­hav­iour on­line is uni­ver­sal,” says Un­friended direc­tor Le­van Gabri­adze, mak­ing his fea­ture de­but. “There is so much drama built into our daily com­put­ing lives, and hor­ror is the per­fect ve­hi­cle in which to prey on it.”

One year af­ter Laura Barnes posted her sui­cide on­line ( a sui­cide prompted by an em­bar­rass­ing video of Laura that went vi­ral), six of her high school col­leagues get to­gether for a Skype chat. They’re soon joined by a mys­te­ri­ous sev­enth per­son, some­one who knows a lot about them and what hap­pened a year ear­lier; some­one who wants to in­habit their souls through their desk­tops. “With the veil of the in­ter­net’s anonymity, any­body can be­come a bully, and the temp­ta­tion is great,” says Gabri­adze. “We drew on the mas­sive trend of teens hang­ing out on­line in group video chats in­stead of in per­son. With a dark his­tory of cy­ber- bul­ly­ing, the friends in the film must con­front their on­line sins. In other films, the dan­ger comes in the form of ghosts and haunted houses, but in Un­friended, the ghosts have a new play­ground: the in­ter­net.”

Un­friended el­e­vates the con­tained hor­ror for­mat to a new level with the en­tire film tak­ing place on Skype through the eyes of Blaire, the film’s teenage pro­tag­o­nist played by Shel­ley Hen­nig ( Teen Wolf, Ouija). “It’s a found- footage film be­cause the whole movie takes place on Blaire’s lap­top screen,” says Gabri­adze, who de­vel­oped tech­nol­ogy that en­abled Hen­nig and her fel­low ac­tors to see and hear each other at all times dur­ing the film­ing. “It’s as if the en­tire movie was recorded off of Blaire’s lap­top for 90 min­utes.”

Un­friended is be­ing cred­ited with launch­ing a new hor­ror sub­genre: the lap­top thriller. “Our desk­tops con­tain more se­crets than our friends and rel­a­tives do,” says Gabri­adze. “It is the most in­ti­mate space for hu­mans now. Films have al­ways tried to go deeper into char­ac­ter, and now we have this re­veal­ing tool that helps us to ex­pose hu­man psy­chol­ogy bet­ter. We’ve de­vel­oped a for­mat that can cer­tainly stretch across gen­res and breathe new life into the hor­ror genre, with­out be­ing gim­micky what­so­ever.”

Un­friended is re­leased on 1 May.

Un­friended might well strike a chord with a lot of peo­ple…

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