Watch the whole thing HERE!
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Watch the whole thing HERE!
The best horror films are never only about the Double Gs—guts and gore. Sure, part of the appeal of scary movies is that they make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, and that frequently requires a spray of blood or a nightmarish vision of terror in the form of Freddy Kruger or Jason Voorhees, but great horror films are always about something other than the thrills and chills.
To be truly effective scary pictures must tap into a collective anxiety; societal hot buttons that elevate the frights to a new level. For instance, Frankenstein plays on people’s fear of science while Godzilla is an obvious cultural metaphor for nuclear weapons in reaction to the devastation of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and you don’t have to be Sigmund Freud to see Dracula as the metaphorical embodiment of everything from drug addiction and old age to alternative lifestyles and capitalism.
Perhaps the most socially self-aware horror film of all is Night of the Living Dead. It’s got zombies galore but director George A. Romero had the braaaiiins to include a subtext that echoed the contemporary state America’s of race relations, the horrors of Vietnam and cynicism with government. It’s the best of both worlds—a thought-provoking movie that gushes with gore.
Film historian Linda Badley suggests Night of the Living Dead horrifies because the zombies weren’t bizarre creatures from outer space or from Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory, but because, “They’re us.”
This weekend a new film, Unfriended, turns the camera, or in this case the Skype screen, on us in an eerie story about bullying. On the surface Unfriended may look like a cheapo teen horror flick with a cast of unknowns—which it is, but so was Night of the Living Dead—but by basing the plot in the world of social media and the bad behaviour that comes along with anonymous avatars, it becomes a ripped-from-the-headlines comment on a very touchy societal subject.
The movie begins a year after Laura, a popular high school student, was cyber shamed into killing herself. A teenage girl is on a group Skype session when she begins to receive cryptic and threatening messages from Laura’s old account. As the movie unfolds secrets are revealed and the danger is amped up.
The mysterious killer is a hoary old horror convention, but here it’s told in the contemporary language of Millennials. Unsurprisingly, the movie has already sparked the interest of the Y Generation—the trailer garnered almost 300,000 Twitter comments on its first day—who relate to the setting—by-and-large it takes place on a computer screen—and who are all too familiar with the everyday brutality of Twitter, Facebook, Skype, Instagram and Spotify. They understand what a minefield the web can be and the filmmakers realized the narrative possibilities of creating cinema’s first deadly internet troll. Freddy Kruger is your father’s baddie; the new horror comes in bits and bytes.
Similar to Psycho’s Norman Bates or the undead of 28 Days Later, the kids of Unfriended tell a very specific story—the sad tale of a teen suicide—that becomes a universal horror tale by making the characters and setting ordinary and relatable. Like the best of classic fright films, it breathes new life into a form we’ve seen before by recontextualizing it for a new generation.
Watch the whole thing HERE!
In the old days monsters were usually found in places like Transylvania or in remote castle laboratories, recognizable by protruding fangs or giant, square green heads but Frankenstein and Dracula are now symbols of an older kind of scare fare. Today, as the movie “Unfriended” shows us, the most terrifying places on earth aren’t far flung physical locations but closer-to-home sites like Twitter, Instagram and Skype.
“Unfriended” begins a year after popular high school student Laura (Heather Sossaman), was cyber shamed into killing herself when an unflattering video of her passed out at a party went viral.
Jealous of her popularity, six of Laura’s schoolmates—Blaire (Shelley Hennig), Jess (Renee Olstead), Val (Courtney Halverson), Ken (Jacob Wysocki), Adam (Will Peltz), and Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm)—were chief among the internet bullies behind the distribution of the video.
One night, on the anniversary of their classmate’s death, and during a group Skype session, they begin to receive cryptic and threatening messages—“If you hang up all your friends will die!”—from Laura’s old account. “It’s a glitch!” “Well, the glitch just typed!”
Secrets are revealed and the danger is amped up as they try and save themselves by checking chat rooms like “Do Not Answers Messages From the Dead.” Something is, as they say, srsly messed up. Cue the cyber screams.
The mysterious killer is a hoary old horror convention, but here it’s told in the contemporary language of Millennials who are all too familiar with the everyday brutality of social media. They understand what a minefield the web can be and the director, Leo Gabriadze, realized the narrative possibilities of creating cinema’s first deadly internet troll. Freddy Kruger is your father’s baddie; the new face of horror comes in bits and bytes. After all, what’s more terrifying than a missing “forward” button on an e-mail?
“Unfriended” is a “Blair Witch Project” for a new age. It’s a found footage film of sorts—the action takes place entirely on a computer screen—and there are no bells and whistles. Entire scenes go by with very little or no dialogue, just the eerie clicks of a computer mouse and there is even an homage to the famous “Heather’s extreme close-up” from the 1999 film.
It’s a very modern thriller that relies on old school scare generators like unnerving silence, anticipation and darkness and shadows, while throwing in a little gore—hand in a blender!—for good measure.
“Unfriended” puts very real seeming (although slightly hysterical) teens in an unreal situation. As the stakes rise so do the emotions, so parents, be warned that you may be as horrified by the language as you are by the thrills and chills.
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