Horror movies traditionally use subversion and transgression to get at their scares, and plenty do so via technology. Universal's new supernatural horror flick, Unfriended (previously known as Cybernatural) looks like it's pushing the envelope, though, by plotting the entire film — paranormal activity and all — on a screencapped desktop.
Think of this as the Skype session from Hell
Think of Unfriended, then, as the Skype session from Hell. The film, directed by Levan Gabriadze, is perfectly basic on a surface level: a white teenaged girl is ridiculed by her white teenaged peers, kills herself, and, one year later, her spirit returns to seek revenge on her tormenters. This all sounds really, really '90s. But what's somewhat innovative is that the entire plot is conveyed by way of online applications we use everyday, touching on painfully real problems of our time in the process. Rape shaming, doxing, teen suicide, and hacking all converge on a single computer screen in truly disturbing ways, and makes the haunting later on in the trailer feel all the more unsettling. Even if the set pieces are pretty ridiculous.
Now, no one is suggesting that Unfriended looks like a particularly good movie. It's still a run-of-the-mill teen horror flick with a timely gimmick that manages to trivialize the real suffering of people for jump scares. That's something horror movies routinely do. But it can at least be said that the film's conceit is inventive enough to make the it worth keeping track of.
Update: A previous version of this article stated that MTV created Unfriended when that was not the case. The film was produced by the Russian Bazelevs Company and is being distributed by Universal Pictures. We apologize for the error.