It’s no secret that I lost my love for the found footage horror genre. Recently I’ve turned to indie/international horror (which is literally the only hipsterish thing about me, my lack of top knots, beards and ironic clothing save me from being anything like a hipster) and I’ve found that this has reinvigorated my love for horror films. From The Babadook to It Follows all the way to Good Night Mommy I’ve developed a love for the more visually stylish films that don’t just try to scare you with blood and gore.
So you can imagine my frustration when I was on a 16 hour flight recently for my Honeymoon and the only two options for horror films were It Follows (which I had already seen twice) and Unfriended. Now to explain a bit further, I can’t sleep on airplanes. I get maybe 40 minutes of sleep, but in general sleep just never comes naturally to me on there. So while all the lights are off and the plane is silent I figured it would be a perfect time to see something scary. When I saw those were the only two movies in the horror section I sighed and figured I might as well check out this found footage movie that at least made it to theatres – seeing how the majority of the ones released now are straight to DVD or Netflix – and I had a surprising amount of fun in this movie. It by no means rekindled my love for found footage film, but it was actually a really cool story that was executed well. And here’s why……..
Now this will come as a shock to you, as it did me, but the story in this movie was actually really unique and cool and the best part of the entire thing. That is correct, THE STORY in a teenage slasher/found footage film was good and executed well. The story is that a year ago to this date, a teen committed suicide in public after a viral video of her was posted that resulted in an endless amount of cyber bullying. 6 friends are skyping and chatting on their computers when one by one they begin to get picked off. It sounds typical and just like every other horror movie right? Killer finds motivation, kills teens one by one, leaves the virgin last. But here’s where it’s different. In say Scream, none of the teens really did anything and are just victims in a psychopaths plan to psycholically torture the main character. In THIS film though that idea is tossed aside and what you end up with is a cast of characters who all individually harmed the killer. One of the characters posted a video of the dead girl that resulted in the cyber bullying, another one spread a rumor, another one slipped something in her drink which made her pass out for the video, another cyber bullied her etc. So as the film progresses you realize that this isn’t a random killer targeting random teens with the end game of facing off against the virgin. Rather it’s a killer who’s been wronged by 6 (rather deplorable) people and kills them one by one based on the severity of what they did to her. The one who sent her private messages slut shaming her dies first, the one who posted public posts slut shaming her dies next, etc. But as the film progresses each character is forced to reveal secrets to the group that implicates them more previous crimes they committed against each other and others. By the end you’re almost rooting for the villain as you realize that this group of friends are drug dealing, cyber bullying, adulterous sociopaths who are only regretting what they’ve done because they’ve been caught. But the way that it makes them reveal their secrets is unique, terrifying and keeps you intrigued the entire time. The killer sends them each private messages with instructions and threats that they can’t reveal to the group otherwise they’ll inflict harm on one another. So they either have to reveal something horrible they’ve done (like when the main character reveals she in fact isn’t a virgin and that she’s been sleeping with her bf’s best friend for months) or risk having one of their friends murdered as a result (“tell the group what you did or he dies”). I know this is a lot to say about just the story but that’s what I loved about it, it had depth, it used current issues (cyber bullying), and it had a killer with actual believable motive.
I remember watching this and initially groaning. The cast of 6 were as follows – the virgin, the sweet boyfriend, the obnoxious jock, the free spirited best friend, the bitchy one and the nerd. As soon as the group chat opened I said “did they not see Cabin in The Woods…do they not know that there was an entire movie dedicated to critiquing this cast of people”. But as the movie progressed I actually found that their chemistry was so good and so not forced that I forgot immediately of their archetypes because each one was given actual depth. But here’s the most interesting part, when I read the imdb trivia I discovered that the audition for this movie involved the cast being in separate rooms, opening a skype window and just interacting. They didn’t have to read lines, weren’t given a scenario or anything. The director just said “talk to each other” and if someone didn’t have chemistry with them then they’d be replaced until they were left with a cast of people who just interacted and played off each other so well. I was very impressed with them all, and as the film progresses you learn of their trauma, their secrets, their crimes and their insecurities. That doesn’t stop you from hating them and rooting for the villain, but it sucks you into their story and makes their interactions all the more believable.
Were they a villain? I mean yes, the villain killed 6 teens and it was terrible. You literally never see their face or hear their voice and it definitely makes them more terrifying. But at the same time it almost seems that since this villain is faceless that they serve more as the voice of those who have been bullied or cyber bullied in the past. It basically scares the characters into facing how they terrorized and harmed the young girl who committed suicide. Yes it’s certainly drastic and I know it sounds like I’m condoning it, which I’m certainly not, but think of all the teens in 2015 who cyber bully and face almost no consequences. You hear them being reported to the school and the school not doing anything about it. Parents can’t do anything, teachers can’t do anything and really authority figures can’t either. So it was refreshing to see a movie where they actually have to face what they’ve done and finally understand the severity. Yes it was an extreme example but it was effective. If I was a teen watching this I’d definitely be more concerned about what I post online and if I was in fact harming or bullying someone. It served as a terrifying PSA for cyber bullying, however I don’t think it’s going to be shown in any schools anytime soon…..
This is not a groundbreaking or innovative movie per se. It is however a movie with a good story, good character chemistry and some good scares. It was one of the better found footage films to come out in the past decade and it was the first to really combine the teen slasher genre with the found footage genre. It won’t win over any non-horror fans and probably won’t be as fun to watch in a group like Paranormal Activity would be, but its good scary fun that’ll definitely make you scared to use your computer (I’m not exaggerating). It’s definitely not as good as the other movies I’ve reviewed, but if you want to turn your brain off and kill 80 minutes with a decently scary movie then check it out!