The cinema-release horror scene sucks. It is a dire and vast pit of the same old low-budget, low-effort rubbish that has 13 year old couples previously asking each other ‘Ey ya fancy being the free ticket part of me Orange Wednesdays?!’ and arriving to the same school’s-out showing to do my head in. Recent theatrical-releases have seen nothing but ghost stories, haunted houses, remakes and sequels. Surely the youth are bored or this formula by now? Or is the government scary enough that we don’t need horror anymore? What about the Internet?
Desktop-based Unfriended actually manages to deliver a moderate amount of thrills for a film contained entirely within a few Macbook windows. Seen only through Blaire’s screen, a night spent on Skype with her friends goes horribly awry when she receives a threatening message from Laura Barns, a former classmate, exactly one year on from her suicide. As Blaire, her boyfriend and 4 other friends sit around enjoying their evening, they are lured into a game of cat-and-mouse as message after message is exchanged between the supposed Laura Barns and the group. Application after application (Skype, Spotify, Facebook, GMail you name it) turns on the group forcing them to stay online and admit their secrets or face the consequences. As you can imagine, there’s going to be a few deaths, and oh how fun they are! There’s blood, guts and some fairly inventive ways to die and these too-short moments solely carry the film on their back, rather than a boring snoop-in on an other-wise uninteresting Skype conversation.
Whilst trying to reserve a space for the art of subtlety (so hard, give me buckets of blood NOW), personally I couldn’t help feeling slightly let down that these brilliant moments of madness and terror were so short-lived, glitches in the computers made the casualties even more chilling, flashing snapshots of terror and pain made me feel like I was back in the final scene of Kick Ass. The deaths are very set up and almost too equally spread out, the ‘scary music’ being all the more obvious than a regular horror in a film that’s only score is the sound of typing. The respectable and reserved non-gore hound part of my brain can’t help but admire the lack of violence and reliance on the mundane and the raging hormones of the teen psyche. The mystery Skype user turns them against each other and tensions continually rise but the plot never seems to reach a pinnacle of horror, by the end you’ve guessed what’s happened and the heart-rates flat-lined (quite literally).
Millennial’s will surely find themselves or their friends in a character or two and revel in the social media thrill of teen normalcy, potentially leading to a lot more forwarded chain letters ‘FWD THIS IN 2 DAYS OR U WILL SEE THIS [pic of Samara from The Ring) AT THE END OF YOUR BED AND YOUR DOG WILL KILL YOU’, and parents concerns for ‘the youth of today’ will continue to rise. Following in the footsteps of Megan is Missing and The Den, Unfriended successfully sets up a more modern format for horror and the socially conscious but doesn’t stray to far from the warm embrace of tired jump-scares and screaming, awful white kids. James Wan, I hold you solely responsible for the continued success of this trope.
By Chloe Leeson
Chloe Leeson is 19 and from the north of England (the proper north). She believes Harmony Korine is the future and is pretty sure she coined the term ‘selfie central’. She doesn’t like Pina Coladas or getting caught in the rain but she does like Ezra Miller & Dane DeHaan a whole lot. Her favourite films are The Beach, Lords of Dogtown and Into the Wild. But DON’T talk to her about Paranormal Activity. She rants @kawaiigoff.