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UNFRIENDED: 4 STARS. “a ‘Blair Witch Project’ for a new age.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 12.50.55 PMIn 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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