On October 7th, Horror Freaks in the US can check out Friend Request, a film that explores the dangers of social media.
Official Synopsis: Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey) is one of the most popular girls in her high school, seemingly adored by all. She is then sent a Facebook friend request by lonely Marina (Liesl Ahlers). Having initially accepted, Laura finds herself being obsessively pursued by Marina and not long afterwards hits the ‘unfriend’ button. When Marina apparently commits suicide in an online video, Laura’s life takes a turn for the terrifying, and she becomes the victim of a supernatural presence, attacked in her own home by a mysterious force. Is Marina responsible? And why does she refuse to disappear from Laura’s friend list, even as it increasingly diminishes in number?
Friend Request is one of a surge of 21st Century horror movies designed to stoke anxieties specific to the Internet. These films continually remind us that the networks many of us rely on are often dangerous domains (pun intended). Whether exploring the fear of technology itself or issues unique to our post 9/11 society, these movies on this list portray actual perils and often serve as modern allegories.
Pulse (2001, Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
Pulse, from Japan, was one of the first horror movies to explore the dehumanizing affects to the Internet. The film serves as a metaphor for Internet addiction as people are literally sucked into cyberspace, forced to endure a timeless purgatory. In Pulse, the Internet is a haven for evil entities, and technology is what enables them to attack. It spawned an American remake in 2006 (along with a couple straight to DVD sequels).
Official Synopsis: After college student Taguchi (Kenji Mizuhashi) commits suicide, a number of young adults living in Tokyo witness terrifying visions transferred across the Internet. As more people disappear throughout the city, the Internet becomes a breeding ground for malevolent spirits. Three seemingly disconnected stories follow Michi (Kumiko Aso), Ryosuke (Haruhiko Katô) and Harue (Koyuki) as they attempt to solve the mystery behind the ghostly visions that are seeping beyond their computer monitors.
Cry_Wolf (2005, Directed by Jeff Wadlow)
It’s been exactly 11 years since Cry_Wolf hit theaters in the US. The film explores how the Internet can be used to disseminate false information, and how seemingly harmless pranks can take on lives of their own. Once you put something online, it’s out there forever—for better or worse (most often worse).
Official Synopsis: Eight unsuspecting high school seniors at a posh boarding school, who delight themselves on playing games of lies, come face-to-face with terror and learn that nobody believes a liar – even when they’re telling the truth.
The Den (2013, Directed by Zachary Donohue)
In The Den, a sociology scholar researching Internet subcultures gets way more than she margined for when her webcam is hijacked and her reputation is destroyed. Worse, she puts herself on the radar of a ruthless death cult. Message: Just as you explore the Internet, the Internet explores you.
Official Synopsis: While studying the habits of web cam chat users from the apparent safety of her own home, a young woman’s life begins to spiral out of control after witnessing a grisly murder online.
My Little Eye (2002, Directed by Marc Evans)
The manipulations of so-called “Reality TV” meet the dangers of the Internet in My Little Eye. The film explores a 21st Century obsession with documenting everything, and the complete loss of privacy that’s becoming a hallmark of the Internet age. The Internet sees everything.
Official Synopsis: Five people are offered $1 million to spend six months together in an isolated mansion, with cameras watching their every move.
Megan is Missing (2011, Directed by Michael Goi)
Internet predators are one of the extreme dangers of the Internet, especially for young women. Megan is Missing is one of the most disturbing, unglamorous films I’ve ever seen, and therefore, intensely impactful.
Official Synopsis: A teenager (Rachel Quinn) disappears after meeting an online acquaintance (Dean Waite).
Hard Candy (2005, Directed by David Slade)
Hard Candy can be considered a foil to Megan is Missing; in the film, an internet pedophile picks the wrong victim! It’s a harrowing upending of established Internet horror tropes that hits like a gut punch.
Official Synopsis: Hayley (Ellen Page) is a precocious teenager who goes to a coffee shop to meet Jeff (Patrick Wilson), the photographer she met on the Internet. Jeff thinks he is in for a real treat, but Hayley plays a trick on him. After drugging Jeff and tying him down, Hayley reveals that she knows Jeff preys on teenage girls and she has a plan to wring a confession from him.
Unfriended (2014, Directed by Levan Gabriadze)
Unfriended is a supernatural thriller that explores the very real dangers of cyberbullying and the lingering after effects of teenage suicide. Unfriended is also unique for existing within the Internet itself: The entire story unfolds in a chat room.
Official Synopsis: One night, while teenagers Blaire, Mitch, Jess, Adam Ken and Val take part in an online group chat session, they are suddenly joined by a user known only as “Billie227.” Thinking it’s just a technical glitch, the friends carry on their conversation… until Blaire begins receiving messages from someone claiming to be Laura Barns, a classmate who killed herself exactly one year prior. As Blaire tries to expose Billie’s identity, her friends are forced to confront their darkest secrets and lies.
Chain Letter (2009, Directed by Deon Taylor)
Ever get one of these emails: “Forward in the next 10 minutes and fortune will find you—don’t and pay the price.” While this type of attention-seeking communication only worries the most obsessive and compulsive Internet users, Chain Letter imagines this common occurrence having deadly results!
Official Synopsis: Six high-school students are warned they will meet with particularly nasty deaths if they fail to forward a chain e-mail.
Stay Alive (2006, Directed by William Brent Bell)
The Internet has changed gaming by allowing players to tangle with opponents from all over the world. The only problem is, you may inadvertently connect with a fiend! Stay Alive is also an apt metaphor for video game addiction and its consequences.
Official Synopsis: Teenagers decide to pass idle time by playing an online game that has a horror theme. But the action taking place on their computer screens becomes a terrifying reality when they realize that each time a character dies during the game, the figure’s human overseer dies as well.
FearDotCom (2002, Directed by William Malone)
FearDotCom plays out like a mash-up of Saw and The Ring.
Official Synopsis: When four bodies are discovered among the industrial decay and urban grime of New York City, brash young detective Mike Reilly (Stephen Dorff) teams with ambitious Department of Health researcher Terry Huston (Natascha McElhone) to uncover the cause behind their violent and inexplicable deaths. The only common factor shared by the victims? Each died exactly 48 hours after logging on to feardot.com.
#Horror (2015, Directed by Tara Subkoff)
#Horror takes the horror of the Internet to cell phones by introducing a nefarious app that encourages a group of teens to make a game of cyberbullying. The film descends into madness as they find themselves unable to differentiate between the game and reality. Sounds like a metaphor for the Pokémon GO craze!
Official Synopsis: Six preadolescent girls face a night of terror when the compulsive addiction of an online social media game turns a moment of cyber bullying into a night of insanity.
Gut (2012, Directed by Elias)
The Internet plays a small but integral role in 2012’s psychological shocker Gut. One character’s search for something more intense than horror movies sends him to the darkest corners of the “deep web” where he falls in with a snuff film syndicate. Unfortunately, they aren’t just looking for viewers—they want participants. Writer/Director Elias has hinted at a sequel for years, so hopefully, we’ll learn more about this terrifying organization in a future installment.
Official Synopsis: Family man Tom has seen something he can’t forget, a mysterious video with an ugly secret that soon spreads into his daily life and threatens to dismantle everything around him.