The cast of the upcoming “cybernatural” horror film Unfriended, were in attendance at Wondercon in Anaheim, Ca. this past weekend. The cast did a panel along with the cast of Insidious: Chapter 3 and also did some interviews with the media. In this round table interview, writer Nelson Greaves and stars Shelley Hennig, Moses Jacob Storm and Will Peltz, talked to us about the film and made predictions on what this film will do to social media and the horror genre.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about the movie?
Nelson Greaves: ‘Unfriended’ is a movie that’s the first of its kind. It’s an entire movie that takes place on a computer desktop and it’s told in realtime, over the course of eighty-five minutes. The story is about a girl named Laura Barnes. One year ago, an embarrassing video of her was posted of her online and three days later, she took her own life. Our story starts an the one year anniversary of her death and we follow six friends who are Skyping together when suddenly they realize there’s a seventh person in the call with them and that person has been listening this whole time and he also seems to know their deepest darkest secrets.
Q: Is this going to do to social media as what ‘Jaws’ did to the ocean?
Shelley Hennig: (laughs) We hope so! It has for me.
Nelson Greaves: Offline, no one can here you scream right?
Q: What would you guys say is the scariest thing about social media and online culture today?
Shelley Hennig: People pretending to be other people. Catfishing. I think it can be pretty incriminating. I’ve personally have had some really scary things happen like people pretending to be dead relatives of mine and trying to talk to me through social media (laughs) but at that, you have to laugh. Did I just take this to a really dark place? (laughs).
Will Peltz: No. It was juicy.
Moses Storm: Uh…just how much access that people have to online. You feel like you’re just talking to your friends but any person can contact you at any moment.
Nelson Greaves: And everything you do online, lasts forever. Whether you’re snapchatting inappropriate pictures of yourself or if you’re sending someone a mean message about someone else, even if you delete it, nothing is actually ever deleted. Everything lives forever and everything you do, you better be ready to face for the rest of your life.
Q: Do you guys feel that this movie will kind of have people second guess themselves of what they put out on social media? Do you think that people will want to be more private?
Will Peltz: Absolutely.
Moses Storm: Yeah. I mean, I think people will be more mindful.
Nelson Greaves: I think the best part of this movie is the next day. Like you go home and go to your computer and suddenly you realize ‘wait a second…’ and suddenly hearing the sound of getting tagged on Facebook, makes your skin gristle. Suddenly hearing the sound of an incoming Skype call, suddenly makes you jump. I think people will be re-approaching and reevaluating everything they’re doing because of what they saw.
Q: But you guys also have social media yourselves right? How limited do you guys put yourselves out there?
Shelley Hennig: I’m very limited.
Will Peltz: She’s the worst at Instagram, she hasn’t posted a picture in like three weeks but I haven’t looked at it today so I don’t know now.
Shelley Hennig: (Laughs) Oh gosh Will. I have Twitter and I Tweet things that are really important to me and that are important to others. I’m very private.
Moses Storm: I’m too liberal and too open to social media.
Nelson Greaves: The fact of the matter is, we live online now. Most people spend most of their days at the computer and so friendships on Facebook aren’t Facebook friendships, they’re friendships. This is where kids live, this is where kids interact.
Q: For the filming of the movie, how did you go about capturing all of it? Did you have to create your own system to capture everybody?
Nelson Greaves: Two entirely different systems. One for production, one of the co-producers Adam Sidman, he basically designed this very complex system that allowed all of the actors to see all of the other actors and both listen to us. At the end of post-production, one of our editors Parker Laramie, designed the most terrifying, complex editing systems that we’ve ever seen.
Q: Moses, what made you want to breakout into your first blockbuster feature? Why the horror genre for your first movie?
Moses Storm: What drew me to this project was just the original concept. I’ve never seen something like this before and it seemed like such a challenge to work on. And the filmmakers took a chance on me. I would say it was more of their choice but it was an incredible experience to be a part of. It was challenging and incredibly rewarding.
Q: With that being said, even though it’s a little bit different because of the fact it’s like Skype, the found footage thing has been done at this point. So what really separates this film from other found footage films besides the fact that it’s Skype?
Moses Storm: It’s the reality of it. We are our own dp’s for this. We’re shooting it, we’re actually chatting. We shoot this movie in just one block. It’s an eighty-five minute take, so however I choose to move the camera, is how it is. You’re not getting a professional dp to purposely make it a shot. It all takes place at a desktop. We are really trapped there. Each character, their only interaction to the outside world, their only escape or possibility of escape is just through the computer screen. You can’t log off or horrible things will happen. I feel like containing the story to just one desktop, definitely sets this one apart. It adds a whole other element of isolation and that makes it terrifying.
Nelson Greaves: I think another thing about it is that we all live on our computers these days, that’s where we spend most of our waking hours and there are hundreds of these tiny little stories that we’ve all accumulated, that we’ve all experience everyday. You know, you’re writing an email to a girl and you’re trying to find out how to sign off, you say ‘hey babe, catch you later,’ then you’re like ‘ah, no. delete.’ Then you go ‘yours respectfully. Ah, no, that’s a little too formal.’ And those are stories that no one has told on the big screen yet, and we tell for the very first time.
Q: Now do you see the horror genre going more in this direction? Is it going to revolutionize where we are going with it?
Will Peltz: I feel like it is. Not only to revolutionize the horror genre but I think in filmmaking in general. I saw the film finally, for the first time and it’s a trip. It’s nothing like I’ve ever watched before. It’s so interactive and like it’s so much like a play in so many ways. Things like shooting one take from page one, all the way through. Also, as a viewer, you get to choose what you’re watching. There’s a bunch of scrolling texts at one scene, your eye might catch something different than my eye is going to catch and we are going to come out with different ideas from that scene. And you can choose to watch Moses in his corner, or you can choose to watch Jacob [Wysocki] in his corner, you know?
Moses Storm: Yeah, you are deciding where you look and where this film does a great job in capturing is how you actually move around in your own desktop. There’s similar sounds and the timing of windows closing and just the frustration of sometimes not being able to hear people when you are in a group chat and this film does an excellent job in making it feel incredibly real.
Will Peltz: It’s also going to be really interesting to watch on a computer. You’re going to want to move your mouse as you watch. It makes it become so much more interactive.
Q: They’ve done video chat horror with the ‘VHS’ series and also ‘Open Windows,’ is there something that you tried to do to avoid going that way that you’ve seen, that you did different in the filmmaking?
Nelson Greaves: What’s funny is that neither of those films existed when we started production with this. So because of the independent label that made the movie, we started this film two years ago and we had photography two years ago today and so what’s great about that is we just went and told the most dramatic story that we could. I haven’t seen either of those things, but what is different is the authenticity of it. I would just add that if people have ideas about movies like this, I would say come to them, learn from our mistakes and make a movie about them.
Will Peltz: We don’t have any mistakes (laughs).
Q: What was it like working with Timur Bekmambetov?
Shelley Hennig: He was our Charlie of ‘Charlie’s Angels’ (laughs) because he was in Russia a lot so he worked very closely with Nelson and he would make his notes, and then speak to Nelson and he would translate to us what he was saying was working or wasn’t working. It was a huge collaboration. I don’t think we could have done it without the next person. Between the cast and the crew, oh my God! Still to this day, I can’t process how it was done.
Unfriended hits theaters April 17.