There is not likely to be anybody out there who hasn’t, at one time or another, posted something on the internet that they wish they didn’t. The repercussions can be traumatic – particularly among young people who are at a time of life when the need to belong to a group often leads to ganging up on individuals who might make fools of themselves in moments of weakness or foolishness. Humiliated by a drunken incident that was uploaded to YouTube, Laura Bains committed suicide. Twelve months later her ghost has returned – through cyberspace – to take revenge on those Fresno school friends responsible making her disgrace public.
If ever there was a movie for the Zeitgeist, this is it – and it is unlike any that I have seen before. Six teenagers – three boys, three girls – hook up one night to exchange goss and music and whatever it is that teenagers do. What follows is in real time, presented via the laptop screens that the kids are simultaneously communicating on, through Skype, Facebook, Spotify, email etc. The main character is Blaire (Shelley Hennig), and the reference to The Blair Witch Project is obvious and intended, for we are meant to see this as a film without artifice or external participation. And thanks to the invisible editing of Parker Laramie and Andrew Wesman, it works brilliantly. Initially, especially for an older viewer, it takes a little while to adjust to the format, but we’re all attuned now, like Pavlov’s dog, to our computers’ prompts, so the eye quickly picks up the flow.
Stripped of its ingenious MO, the story is basically a whodunnit with a bit of horror thrown in as unseen death, in the form of an online presence called ‘billie227’, stalks the ‘users’. Director Levan Gabriadze and writer Nelson Greaves also pose pertinent questions about the new reality to which we are becoming accustomed, with its secrets and lies and, notwithstanding the boastful claim of opening up the world, its sinister opacity. It’s true – the medium is the message.