HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: UNFRIENDED (2015)

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Unfriended

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UNFRIENDED (2015)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

While there have been horror films that utilized Skype before (Paranormal Activity 4) and films that took place totally on a laptop (Open Windows), Blumhouse Productions’ Unfriended is the first to set a horror film completely within the social media world. Characters pop from Skype to Youtube to Facebook as the story unfolds and we even get some messages about the negative effects of cyber-bullying and having your entire life published online for the world to see…all within a surprisingly chilling and suspenseful horror.

The story opens on the one year anniversary of the suicide of high school student Laura Barns (Heather Soddaman), who killed herself after a humiliating video is posted on Youtube. Five of her friends, including pretty Blaire (Shelley Hennig), are having a Skype chat when an unknown caller joins in. No one can delete them and any effort to identify them leads back to the accounts of the dead Laura. A possible prank in bad taste turns into a living nightmare as the cyber-stalker starts to threaten the group into playing a game that slowly brings out their darkest secrets. There are deadly consequences if anyone tries to leave the game and as their numbers dwindle, horrible truths are revealed and the friends quickly begin to turn on each other. Is this some hacker with a cruel and personal vendetta, or has Laura truly returned from the grave with a vengeance?

Director Levan Gabriadze and writer Nelson Greaves have come up with a very clever horror set in the cyber world that today’s teens…and adults…inhabit. It lays out five convincing, typical high schoolers and then put’s them in a situation where their compulsion to document, and sometimes post, everything they do, comes back to haunt them…literally. Not only is Laura’s character dead due to a mean-spirited Youtube video, but her actual suicide was caught and posted as well. There is no privacy, even in death and this film exploits that as the mysterious stalker reveals the group’s darkest secrets through photos and videos they think are hidden safely on their computers. The fiend also seems to know some very personal details and there is even an online article about the dead communicating through social media with the living, to get the group…and the audience…properly spooked. And Gabriadze and his editors do a good job of building the chills and tension as this online nightmare gets worse and worse and the circle of friends gruesomely loses members when they don’t cooperate. The filmmakers make good use of the limited range of Skype, so we never know if there is someone…or something…lurking just behind our terrified teens. If anything held the film back a little, it was that those from an older generation, like myself, may have a harder time identifying with the laptop generation and the urge to have one’s personal life connected so thoroughly with the internet. That and some of the clicking back and forth between windows sometimes disrupts the tension a bit. Otherwise this is a very clever and sometimes very intense little horror that will make you think twice about how much you open up your personal life in cyberspace…or taunting someone else online.

The cast all do a convincing job portraying typical modern teens. They have their drama and sometimes can be a bit insensitive when it comes to the urge to go public with what happens around them and involving others. Shelley Hennig’s Blaire is our focus…it’s her laptop on which the action takes place…and she does solid work as she first tries to get to the bottom of this strange intruder and then conveying her terror as she is broken down and comes apart likes the rest of her friends. Those friends being played by Moses Storm as boyfriend Mitch, Renes Olstead as Jess, Will Peltz as Adam, Jacob Wysocki as stoner/cyber-geek Ken and Courtney Halverson as the bitchy Val. They all convey well their fear and anger as their souls are bared and it’s almost fun to watch as they go from fearing for one another to turning on each other to save their own lives.

So, overall I liked this a lot. I think it would have been even more effective if I identified better with today’s social media immersed generation. I don’t get people’s need to document and post their every though and action…says the guy with the blog…and certainly don’t understand the apathy and lack of respect by posting things harmful about others. This is not the fault of the film, however, and overall I recommend it for a clever, devious and sometimes very disturbing cyber-horror.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 very solid laptops.


unfriended rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S BEST HORROR FLICKS of 2014!

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Everyone has their own taste in horror films and everyone’s favorite horror flicks from the past year will vary from fiend to femme fatale. So, with that in mind, here are MonsterZero NJ’s 10 favorite horrors of 2014 along with five honorable mentions that warrant a shout out (scream out?) too!

(There are a few titles here initially released in 2013 but, I did not catch up to them till home media in 2014 and felt it unfair not to include them.)

(Click on the titles below the movie poster gallery to get to our reviews!)

 

Click on the titles here to go to the review page for the corresponding movie!

  1. OCULUS
  2. THE BABADOOK
  3. THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (2014)
  4. WE ARE WHAT WE ARE (remake)
  5. ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE
  6. OPEN GRAVE
  7. AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR
  8. PATRICK: EVIL AWAKENS
  9. NURSE
  10. SEE NO EVIL 2

HONORABLE MENTIONS

  1. ODD THOMAS
  2. THE SACRAMENT
  3. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE MARKED ONES
  4. DEVIL’S DUE
  5. DELIVER US FROM EVIL

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HALLOWEEN FAVORITES: SCREAM (1996)

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SCREAM (1996)

“Some stupid killer stalking some big-breasted girl who can’t act, who is always running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door. It’s insulting.”- Sidney Prescott

Halloween Favorites is back and this horror classic is certainly a worthy return for this holiday centric column!

Wes Craven’s A Nightmare On Elm Street is one of the great classics of the slasher era and so who better to re-invent the sub-genre, when it burned itself out in the late 80s with endless sequels and knock-offs. Armed with a very clever script by Kevin Williamson, Craven reignited the sagging horror genre with a film that works both as homage to the traditions of slasher flicks…while playfully poking fun at them…and as an effective slasher on it’s own.

Scream takes place in the fictional town of Woodsboro where we open with pretty blonde Casey (Drew Barrymore) about to settle in for the night with popcorn and a horror movie. But Casey begins to get phone calls from a strange person who, at first seems to be playful, but then gets more and more aggressive and threatening as it continues. Soon it is revealed that she and her bound on the back porch boyfriend’s lives are in mortal danger and all she has to do is answer some horror movie trivia questions to save their lives…but there is a horrible price if she is wrong. Needless to say , she and her beau are ruthlessly slaughtered by a killer wearing a ghost face mask and the high school is all a-buzz about it the next day. Enter Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell), whose mother was murdered a year earlier and the suspected killer (Liev Schreiber) is now in jail… or is he? But Sydney has become a target of this masked serial killer and everyone around her may be a suspect…or a fatality. Who is this mysterious butcher and why has he targeted Sydney and her friends as his/her next victims?

Scream, first off starts with that great sequence with Drew Barrymore that really sets the tone for the film. It is scary and violent and establishes that this is a horror film that openly acknowledges it’s predecessors. It then openly references a lot of the classic horrors of the previous decades as it’s pop culture savvy teens are well aware of these films and use them as a guide to deal with their current situation…just as our killer is using them as a template for their own heinous deeds. All this self-awareness makes this flick a lot of fun and Craven is one of the best horror directors out there in using pop culture reference to fuel his tales. The script by Kevin Williamson not only references these horrors, but is the first flick to outright state the slasher horror ‘rules’ as per film geek Randy (Jaime Kennedy) that determine who lives and who dies…Don’t have sex, never say “I’ll be right back!”. The best part is that this flick also works as a slasher in itself. Craven and Williamson set up a situation that is a classic slasher with a victim with a painful past being stalked by a killer with a possible grudge and everyone is a suspect. There are some very suspenseful and scary scenes along with some very brutal kills as Ghost Face works his/her way through Sydney’s friends and various other characters. The film’s hip movie savvy humor never gets in the way of the scares or carnage, either. Craven and Williamson even get to make a statement about the desensitizing of violence in the current generation and the media’s insensitive and sensationalistic coverage of horrific events in the person of Gale Weathers (Courtney Cox), a selfish, pit bull of a reporter who is determined to prove Sydney sent the wrong man to prison with her testimony and that the real killer is the one stalking Woodsboro. Is she right?… has one of these kids seen one too many horror flicks? Craven and Williamson have a blast letting us in on the answer and so does the audience as the big reveal is both surprising and a perfect example of how cleverly this film openly acknowledges that it is a horror film inspired by other horror films, just like it’s characters. If the film has any faults it’s that there are a few slow spots and one make-up effect involving a garage door and a character’s head is far too rubbery to work and ruins one of the more inventive kills. Other than that, this is a horror classic and one of Craven’s best films in a classic studded career.

As for the cast. It’s ensemble gives us a generous amount of suspects and victims. Campbell’s Sydney is one of modern horror’s most memorable final girls. She’s sweet but strong and has her own inner pain to fuel her survival instincts. Courtney Cox is perfect as the mega-bitch reporter who is using the killings in Woodsboro to further her career, but she also surprises us in the last act. As Sydney’s friend’s…Skeet Ulrich as boyfriend Billy has a nice air of danger about him and as a suspect, it works perfectly. Matthew Lillard as his bud Stu, is fun as a bit of an oblivious goofball …or is he? Rose McGowan as her best friend Tatum, turns the buxom blonde cliché on it’s ear with a young woman who is smart and sarcastic to go along with her Playboy model looks. Jaime Kennedy as Randy is the film’s movie geek and does well in creating that film obsessed nerd who provides the characters and audience with the exposition needed by way of horror film references. David Arquette as Tatum’s deputy brother Dewey, gives us a sweet natured do-gooder who is a little too anxious to please and not as smart as he thinks. Add in a fun cameo by Henry “The Fonz” Winkler as an eccentric school principal and you have a great cast who all do a good job selling Williamson’s clever characters from his script. They are an endearing bunch and all give their characters the proper tone for the material and sound like the media savvy teens that they are…though none look young enough to be teens, but that is also a horror movie tradition.

So, except for a few slow spots and one botched make-up effect, Scream is a horror classic that not only works as a horror, but as a homage to all the slashers that came before it. It’s teens grew up on the 80s horror flicks and openly reference them and compare them to the real-life situation that they are in. While it’s not the first horror film to include a horror movie fan character, it is the first to present it’s characters as a generation weened on the horror films that populated the previous decades and are part of their culture…and the film has a blast doing it while genuinely scaring and thrilling us. A true horror classic from a legendary horror filmmaker.

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) ghost faces!

scream rating

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