I hate Skype. I always thought the upside of a phone call and/or texting was the notion that I don’t have to see you whilst conversing. I can be in my pajamas or greedily eating a bowl of spaghetti or making a mocking gestures — and you’ll be none the wiser. Skype ruins all of that. Now I actually have to comb my hair. Also I’ve heard there may be some vengeful spirit haunting the site, knocking off people who did it (the spirit or the site) wrong. I’m not trying to hurt the app’s stock or cast aspersions on the technology. Just saying ghostly shenanigans happen — and maybe we should go back to only calling each other from hereon out. What’s that you say? One Missed Call… Is no technological device safe from the unwanted presence of some evil ghost/spirit/demon/Orwellian-government/mom? Oh well — maybe it’s best to not have any friends to begin with.
Based on a true story* (*according to me), Unfriended tells the age ol’ tale of a group of friends who play a practical joke on some poor girl, causing her to kill herself — in turn becoming a vengeful spirit that can infiltrate Skype (or whatever licensed knock-off the film could legally afford), wherein the pissed-off spirit offs her former tormentors in various grizzly ways in payment for their mean joke. Because these are sensitive times. Bullying is wrong. At WonderCon 2015, Producer Jason Blum, writer Nelson Greaves and the entire cast (Shelley Hennig, Renee Olstead, Courtney Halverson, Jacob Wysocki, Will Peltz & Moses Jacob Storm) were on hand to promote Blumhouse’s latest horror flick. Below are highlights from the panel.
On the immersive aspect of Unfriended:
“This movie you kind of get to direct it yourself because the whole movie is on a computer screen,” Jason Blum said “There’s all these different things happening and going on screen. But you get to look where you want to look on the screen. It’s almost like you’re the director of a live TV event — which is a really fun experience to have in a movie theater and super unusual.
What came first the story or the unusual execution?
Per Greaves: “The story came first. The execution we just finished about two weeks ago. Timor Bekmambetov [the Wanted filmmaker who ‘produces’ here] had wanted to do a movie on a desktop. He has two offices — one in the United States, one in Russia. When he ends his day in real life, he just gets on Skype for hours. He’d been wanting to do a film like this forever…”
On the Logistical Difficulties of Making a Movie on A Desktop:
“Every editor we ever had looked at our project has said this is the most complicated, horrific editorial project I’ve ever seen.” Greaves chuckled “It was very difficult both in production and in editorial. [There was a camera system designed] so that all the actors could see each other and react to each other in real time. [There was also an] insane Post system where everything is its own element and it’s all mixed around…”
On Shooting the Whole Movie in a Single Take During Production:
“Shelley deserves a lot of the credit for it.” Greaves said “We were in a single house together and we would do long takes — ten minute takes. We were at lunch and Shelley came up to us and said ‘Hey — could we do it in a single take.’”
“I was not trying to be cool” Hennig laughed, “I was just trying to save my strength. Starting from the middle of this horrific scene is not that easy. So going from the beginning to the end was creatively liberating. I had never done anything like that before and I don’t think I’ll ever do anything like it again.”
“The long takes really help the process,” Storm added “It’s very rare in a movie you get to start at one place and see it through to the end point. Doing it in one long take, that actually helps keep your energy up. It helps to feed off the other cast members. Just feeding off each others energy to keep going.”
“On most movies, actors spend most of their day in trailers and they call out and [bring them to set] and they say ‘Ready — you’re going to die’ and ‘Okay — you’re done. Go back to your trailer.’ These guys were acting for twelve hours a day every single day that we shot. They were spending the entire day together which is not how it is on any other project,” Greaves finished.
Grounding Unfriended in Relatable Emotional Characters:
“We knew we were going to somewhere different telling the movie on the desktop,” Greaves explained “In order to have a frame of reference, we very consciously wanted to [incorporate] those horror archetypes but subvert them at the same time. A lot of that was in the writing but a lot of it was in what these guys brought in the form of personal things they came up with.
“Nelson and Timor both encouraged improvisation even from the initial audition,” Storm added “So we have these archetypes in place but we fill them out with our own specifics.”
Who is Laura Barnes?
Per Greaves: “Laura Barnes is everything that’s scary about the Internet. She’s all your secrets. You all use incognito mode, you all clear your histories and you all delete things. Laura sees all of that. She is everything scary about going online.”