I went to see, on the recommendation of the white deer of the Internet, Darcysport, this horror movie based on cyberspace relationships: Unfriended. Horror recommendations are kind of important, because you can’t trust audiences or critics, quite frankly, but specific individuals can give you a good insight. A Darcysport recommendation tells me: It’s not gonna be too gory, and the social-media is probably not social-media beyond my comprehension.
Unfriended has a higher critic rating than audience rating, and I may be wrong but I suspect the movie drops 20 points of popularity overall because of its central conceit.
The story is about five friends, on the anniversary of the suicide of a sixth, who are being haunted, stalked and—no spoilers here—killed. This is one of the standard horror plots to emerge in the ‘80s, along with “kids go to a cabin in the woods” and “kids are stalked by supernatural force”, understanding of course that the Venn diagram of these movies has a lot of overlap. (Exercise for the reader: Name a horror film about kids who go to a cabin in the woods where they are stalked by a supernatural force that is the revenant of a school friend who died.)
But the conceit here is that we’re witnessing the entire proceedings through the laptop of the main character, and the haunting primarily takes the form of making their computers act up.
So, yeah, I thin that’s for 20 points off the top, right there: For people above a certain age, their computers always act up in spooky ways and they just turn them off and wait for their kids or grandkids to fix them.
But, you know, saying “pull the plug” or “take out the battery” isn’t really much different from saying “leave the house” or “take the next plane to Sheboygan”. There’s always a contrivance, like the doors slam shut, or (in this case) the ghost’s assurance that you’ll die if you leave the Skype chat. You either buy in or you don’t—which, by the way, is why aggregate horror movie scores are so unreliable: A substantial number of people think it lessens them to buy in. (Arguably true of me and superhero movies these days, for that matter. But I’m honest about it, I think.)
So, do I want to see a raft of horror movies that consist of people Skyping? No, I do not. Was this a clever trick for a low-budget (6 figures low, perhaps) flick, and is it done reasonably effectively? Yes, it was.
The Boy also liked it. And, for instance, had no technological complaint.
There are a couple of oddities here. At one point, the lead gets the idea of using ChatRoulette to call for help, the boogen having cut off all other avenues. Since Chatroulette is primarily known for guys displaying their genitals, this was kind of a funny moment at an unlikely time.
Actually, the whole movie is an ad for a variety of online services: Gmail, Skype, YouTube, ChatRoulette (sorta), Facebook and so on. That should’ve covered their budget right there. It’s inconceivable to me that considerable discussions weren’t had with Google and Microsoft.
Another oddity is how truly awful everyone involved seems to be. For high school kids, they’ve got a ton of skeletons in their respective closets. But I guess that’s what happens when you’re in your mid- to late-20s and still in high school. (Of course, having adults pushing 30 star as high school kids isn’t the least bit odd, .)
Anyway, the movie gets in, gets out, and doesn’t belabor the point. Worth a look-see.