In the dawn of the digital age, we’ve seen the Internet change the way we make movies. Hacking has become the newest unofficial deus ex machina, used as a device to both cause and resolve major conflicts. All this seemingly culminated in Blackhat, starring Chris Hemsworth as a former villain turned hero hacker looking to save the world from a digital attack of 9/11 proportions. But Wanted director Timur Bekmambetov may have just topped that effort by a longshot with his latest effort, Unfriended.
Anyone who’s ever seen I Know What You Did Last Summer knows the basic format for the classic late 90s slasher. A group of teenagers do a thing to a person, and that person dies. Then presumably dead person resurfaces in some mysterious way and starts picking off the group of teenagers in a series of terrifying murders. For a time, it was the biggest trend in horror, but since faded away as most trends do. For Unfriended though, Bekmambetov has reimagined the genre completely, putting it completely on a computer screen.
The basic concept of the movie is beautifully simple: It takes place completely on the desktop of a teenager named Blaire, as she goes into a video Skype session with her friends. A stranger enters the chat, as suspicions start to arise that it’s their former classmate who allegedly committed suicide after an embarrassing video of her was uploaded to the Internet. The stranger then starts to terrorize each of them, appearing to pick them off one by one, slasher-style.
It all feels very Paranormal Activity-esque in a found footage-y sort of way, and if Badass Digest is to be believed, early reviews have been decidedly positive.
The entirety of the film takes place on Blaire’s computer monitor, mainly in the borders of her Skype session with quick detours to her desktop, Facebook, Spotify and Google. I know. That sounds annoying, right? But, somehow, miraculously, it isn’t. This is partly because it’s all so authentic.
Horror is a genre that, over the last couple years, has begun to stagnate here in the United States. While Paranormal Activity keeps trying to recapture the magic with sequel after sequel, all we’re getting outside of that is a series of sub-par ghost stories that are so similar, they’ve become nigh indistinguishable. If Unfriended is doing one thing, it’s acting as the combo-breaker in a long line of derivative movies (even if its original title Cybernatural was more than a little cheesy).
More importantly though, it’s tapping directly into the fears of a generation, something that truly great horror accomplishes to a tee. British horror (Attack the Block, 28 Days Later) all takes place in the city, since in their history that’s what they’ve had to be scared of (think Jack the Ripper). The peak of American horror that came about at the inception of the Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and Friday the 13th franchises all took place in the suburbs for the same reason. Unfriended is a horror flick that takes place on the Internet, because that’s where this generation of teens and 20-somethings have lived and grown up for the last decade. When you invade that home and make it feel unsafe, you generate earned and nuanced scares that hit at a deep level.
Based on the concept alone, you can count us among those are who are tentatively looking forward to Unfriended‘s wide release on April 17. The social media generation is here, and it looks like they’ve officially made their way into the world of horror.