Unfriended

The people who develop programs like Skype must spend considerable amounts of money trying to make sure that their products sound nice and look friendly, and now here comes the movie industry doing its best to make programs like Skype sound eerie and look sinister. Hollywood has kind of an uphill battle at this (that ringtone is just so bouncy!) and that shows sometimes, but at least they're trying something a little different from the standard horror movie fare.

We've still got the standard bunch of high-school friends, though. First there's Blaire (Shelley Hennig, who played Isabelle in a TV show called Friend Me) and her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Storm, and by the way, "Mitchie" doesn't really work as a cute little nickname), talking about prom over Skype when the rest of the group joins in, apparently without either Blaire or Mitch actually taking the call.

Adam (Will Peltz, In Time) is Mitch's best friend. Then there's Jess (Renee Olstead) and Val (Courtney Halverson), though nobody seems to like Val very much so I'm not sure if she's usually part of the group or if she's just there to be a redshirt. None of the characters are terribly nice or likable, now that I think about it. But Matt (Matthew Bohrer) and Ken (Jacob Wysocki) round out the group, with Ken being the token tech nerd. He's perhaps the best of the bunch, but he's still the first to point out that nobody likes Val. Adam is supposed to be the one with the temper, but Mitch gets at least as angry nearly as often and Jess likes to start rumors, so yeah.

Anyway. They're also joined by a mysterious eighth person without an avatar, and here's where we learn that it isn't easy to make that stylized blue and white silhouette look scary. But it won't go away, despite techy Ken's best efforts, so something is clearly up. Using the screen name 'billie', the party crasher (chat crasher?) first tosses out some cryptic questions and a couple of insults as a warm up before moving on to bigger things, like turning the lights off for all the chatters simultaneously.

Blaire tries to blame Mitch for playing a joke, but soon they realize what's happening: dead friend Laura (Heather Sossaman), is cyber-haunting them. It isn't just that she's dead, but also dead by her own hand, after being cyber-bullied -- a hugely embarrassing video of her drunk at a party was posted to YouTube, complete with cruel comments about how she should just kill herself already. And 'billie' says that she knows it was one of her so-called friends in that very chat who posted said video.

You can imagine the horrible "games" that they're forced to play as their cyber-ghost reveals their dark secrets and takes them out one by one -- that's again pretty much standard, except the ghost is even less visible than usual in this case. Poor billie doesn't even get to make a sound, not so much as a maniacal cackle. But there's still at least one pretty gruesome death scene to satisfy the horror fans, though it isn't really the sort of movie where the horror stays with you after you leave the theatre, which was something of a relief.

I don't think I can really go higher than three out of five. It was an interesting experiment and I wasn't bored, but it still lacked something. And really, given how often the excuse "But I was drunk!" gets trotted out whenever we learn of some new, bad thing one of the kids did, it's almost more of a lesson in the perils of alcohol abuse than a horror flick.

Image: 
The Skype default avatar. Not scary at all, right?

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