In this day and age, all friendships, relationships, life events and important goings-on are characterised by their prominence on that most popular of online social networks – Facebook. In this very original movie, the director uses the medium of Facebook to enact his horrifying premise, as well as show up a number of issues created with the use of social media, such as cyber-bullying, and the harm done through gossip.
The movie takes place entirely on a computer screen. It begins with a young girl, Blaire, who is researching the backlash left on the media after the recorded suicide of her dead friend Laura. Suddenly, Blair stops viewing the procession of videos, chats, and Facebook pages connected to Laura, as her boyfriend logs in, and they share an intimate moment over Skype. The cyber-sex session is cut short however, when their four friends intrude upon their Skype chat, creating a group chat. While the teens chat using their webcam, we see Blair still using her computer to research things in the background, listen to music, and hold a private chat with her boyfriend.
Things start becoming strange when a photo-less intruder enters the group chat uninvited. The friends try to get rid of him by logging on and off various times, but the blank window remains always present. The mysterious intruder starts revealing secrets the friends had held from each other, in a malice-laden ‘game’ called ‘Never have I ever’. We realise that Laura shot herself after falling victim to cyber-bullying, when a video of her, drunk and passed out, is uploaded on YouTube, and she becomes the butt of snide jokes and gossip at school.
The faceless intruder is using the dead girl’s online profile to send emails and messages to the group of friends. His aim is to show up their hypocrisy, and lies towards each other, not to mention the fact that they were of tantamount importance to Laura’s death. He wants to show them how their supposed friendship is all a sham, and how their vanity, pride, and gossip-mongering can damage someone and cause them irreparable harm.
One of the primary issues of the movie is also the importance and power of one’s reputation. Once that is lost, one’s public image, not to mention the respect and friendship of other people, is lost too.
The intruder starts hacking all of the friends’ computers, uploading photos they do not want online and sending false chat messages and emails using their names. One of the girls calls 911, but suddenly her camera stops working, and when it’s on again, we see her motionless next to a bottle of bleach. It is at that moment that the people in the chat group realise that the intruder is not only dangerous but that he has access to their houses and rooms. This is not a game – the intruder thinks they are guilty of killing Laura and wants to punish them.
When I had read about the experimental and original angle taken in this movie, I had honestly thought it would bore me. It kind of reminded me of the single-handed amateurish yet interesting approach taken in filming The Blair Witch Project (1999), but the fact is that it is totally different. Instead of boring me, it kept me sitting at the edge of my seat the whole time. The premise was also quite familiar, since spending an evening chatting with one’s friends on Skype, while watching YouTube movies, listening to music online and browsing Facebook, is something quite familiar.
This movie is truly one of a kind.