Starring: Shelley Hennig, Moses Storm, Renee Olstead, Will Peltz, Jacob Wysocki, Courtney Halverson and Heather Sossaman
Directed by: Leo Gabriadze
Cert: 16 Running Time 83 mins
Release Date: May 1st 2015
Coming from the same horror stable as Paranormal Activity and Insidious, Unfriended, a cautionary supernatural tale pitting five teens against the spirit of a dead girl they may have cyberbullied into suicide, is an effective if silly slice of modern horror.
The only thing the viewer sees is the computer screen of Blaire (Shelley Henning) as she clicks and chats using her Skype account, Facebook, YouTube and Gmail, beginning with her watching the posted video of school friend Laura Barns’ (Heather Sossaman’s) suicide.
It’s a clever device to begin with but as the body count rises and the teens grow more hysterical on Skype, it begins to wane as the viewer’s common sense creeps in. How did they all happen to be in their homes alone? Have they no parents or siblings? Is there no adult they can turn to for help? Couldn’t they have just met up at the local diner for a milkshake?
That said the format provides for plenty of jumpy moments as the teens realise the threat is in the room with them and writer Nelson Greaves has found new and suitably gross ways to dispatch them. The delayed, semi-frozen pic you get on skype when cursing your broadband provider, is put to good use here creating an eerie ghostly effect. Sound also builds the tension, where even a bing of a message notification can send you off your seat. Director Leo Gabriadze cleverly had the cast audition on Skype and they impress, especially as it’s heavily improvised so you feel like you’re listening in to a real conversation that’s authentic even if the characters are a bit stereotyped.
Despite it’s spooky premise, the film does tackle the issue of cyber bullying and demonstrates how one negative comment can encourage ten more and at one stage Shelley says ‘but everyone was posting’ and it’s that sheep mentality that gets them into trouble here. Aside from our spectre it also makes you wonder who’s watching you silently online and the lack of privacy is tackled here as the ghost seeks to air each of the friend’s dirty laundry for all to see. The permanency of the internet too raises questions over comments and media posted online that will stay up there forever.
Developed and produced by filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) it’s a clever film that will send chills up the spines of teens audiences everywhere and send social media into meltdown.