Fantasia 2014: Unfriended (AKA, Cybernatural) (2014) Review – Exhilaratingly Unique

Cybernatural (directed by Leo Gabriadze, written by Nelson Greaves, and produced by Timur Bekmambetov) made its world premiere at Fantasia 2014, and we were there to screen it. And are we ever glad we did! This is a film that defies conventions and, in the process, redefines a genre. Telling the story of a cyber haunting via one character’s perspective, Blaire (Shelley Hennig), the genre this film redefines is, first and foremost, that of “found-footage.” However, part of that redefinition means that there’s no, or at least very little, shaky-cam footage, and there’s no lost tapes that we’ve suddenly become privy to.

What we are privy to is interactive communication between friends, almost like we’re the spirit doing the haunting in Cybernatural, or as if we’re eavesdropping on the conversation.

What we see via Blaire’s perspective is limited to what she sees on her computer screen… and that’s it. If you were to watch Cybernatural on your computer, you might actually feel like you’re part of the film as you appear to lose control of your computer. But the interactive experience isn’t lost in the theater either, as Gabriadze did a fantastic job of making everything feel familiar to anyone who uses social media. It’s also especially poignant for teenagers, who live in this cyber world. Additionally, the humor used aids in immersing the audience in the experience.

cybernatural blaire screaming

I don’t want to give away too much of the film, so I’ll divert to the synopsis given on IMDB:

While video chatting one night, six high school friends receive a Skype message from a classmate who killed herself exactly one year ago. At first they think it’s a prank, but when the girl starts revealing the friends’ darkest secrets, they realize they are dealing with something out of this world, something that wants them dead.

In addition to making a social commentary on our use of social media, Cybernatural also addresses the epidemic of bullying, and more specifically how bullying is conducted in today’s world. The days of the school-yard bully almost feel like a distant memory, though I’m sure they still exist. As Cybernatural makes clear, anyone can be a bully or a victim with the Internet to hide behind.

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The cast (which includes Shelley Hennig, Renee Olstead, Jacob Wysocki, Courtney Halverson, and Moses Jacob Storm) has incredible chemistry, and given the fact that they basically improvised the script, much of this film’s flawlessness is owed to them. But more than being witness to their chemistry, you will sympathize their plight and feel as though you are one of them.

The Verdict: 4/5 Skulls

Cybernatural is a truly unique film, one that redefines so much of our horror experience. And that’s what this film really is, an experience rather than a third-person observation. If Paranormal Activity was the successor to The Blair Witch Project, then Cybernatural succeeds Paranormal Activity. Cybernatural is a must-see for any genre fan who’s growing tired of the same old tricks, and it’s for anyone looking for something totally awesome.

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