The ghost’s in the machine in this webcam horror
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…