With Host (2020), currently streaming on Shudder, making all kinds of noise for its brilliant use of low tech online platform filmmaking, we here at Nightmare on Film Street thought we would take a look at other films that delve into the world of cyber-horror. In turn, we have compiled a Top Ten List of Internet-based Horrors that is sure to scare up more than a few ghosts in your various machines.
10. Livescream (2018)
Online gaming has become as popular, if not more, than the old at home console games of the past. In fact, it has grown so much in popularity that gamers actually have fans that watch their gaming prowess with adoration and adulation. Tune in to any of the countless YouTube walkthrough videos and take a gander at the views and the numbers are staggering. This is the basic premiss for director Michelle Iannantuono’s Livescream.
Online gamer, Scott (Gunner Willis, Dollface, 2014), has a legion of fans that love to watch him play horror games. When an anonymous fan sends him a mysterious game titled, Livescream, an intrigued Scott plays the game away but as it turns out, the game is haunted. Now Scott and his fans find themselves in danger as the malevolent forces contained in the game are now out and after them all. Where was the parental advisory on that one, EB Games!?
9. Unfriended (2014)
Director Levan “Leo” Gabriadze’s Unfriended tells the supernatural story of a topic that is all too familiar in this day and age, Cyber Bullying. A cyberbullied teen, driven to commit suicide due to a group of relentless internet bullies, is back from beyond the grave to seek vengeance on those who tormented her.
There are multiple layers of terror wrapped within the pixelated frames of Unfriended. On the one hand, we have the on-the-nose horrors of a vengeful spirit clawing her way back from the beyond to exact revenge and on the other, we have the horrors that people bestow upon each other. The narrative of a young vulnerable girl under so much persecution from her classmates that she feels taking her life is the only answer is the most tragic terror of the entire film.
8. Searching (2018)
Aneesh Chaganty’s Searching is presented entirely on computer and smartphone screens and is a gripping tale about a father, David Kim (John Cho) searching for his missing daughter Margot (Michelle La). With the help of a police detective Rosemary Vick (Debra Messing), David uncovers secrets that his daughter has been keeping.
The harrowing nature of this film lies in the way the film is presented paired with powerful performances from Cho (The Grudge, 2020) and Messing (The Mothman Prophesies, 2002). The helplessness of discovering a loved one missing and knowing that had you just picked up their phone call, answered their text, or made sure they got home safely plays on all of our minds as the characters in Searching search for missing Margot.
7. Friend Request (2016)
I toiled over including Simon Verhoeven’s Friend Request on this list because of the similarities in plot to the above-mentioned Unfriended but I quickly realized that, while similar in idea, they are very different movies. Friend Request takes that familiar trope of an unpopular girl committing suicide after being humiliated by someone she considered a friend and then she returns for revenge.
But her revenge is the best part of the movie and very much where it differs from other similar films. The film turns into a full-out Ring-style haunt-fest. There are killer bees, out of body corpse discoveries, swan dives from windows, self-inflicted gunshot wounds, and let’s not forget enough demon activity to choke an exorcist. What, on the surface, seems to be a retread of other films soon finds its identity and the result is a fun ride that made me think twice about ignoring any friend requests.
6. Cry_Wolf (2005)
While closer to a traditional slasher, Jeff Wadlow’s Cry_Wolf dabbles just enough within the cyber horror tropes that it earned itself a spot on this list. The creepy story of a serial killer stalking a killing a group of boarding school brats finds it’s cyber legs in the form of a fake email that is circulated around campus claiming a serial killer nic-named The Wolf is responsible for a real-life death that occurred just days prior and that he will strike again. Next thing you know, the bodies are dropping like a spam box purging and The Wolf is real.
The cast is what sells this stalk and slash thriller with a spunky gang of early 2000s rising stars such as Jared Padalecki (Friday the 13th, 2009), Lindy Booth (Wrong Turn, 2003), Julian Morris (Sorority Row, 2009), and the always dreamy Jon Bon Jovi (Vampires: Los Muertos, 2002). Think of Cry_Wolf as the slasher movie for the new millennium. Slasher 2.0.
5. FeardotCom (2002)
For those old enough to remember, the early 2000s was basically the internet’s adolescence, it’s awkward stage if you will. I mean, remember Geocities? Great googly moogly! There was a time when websites were destinations rather than vessels for products and services and director William Malone’s FeardotCom used that to its spooky advantage.
The story follows NYC police detective Mike Reilly (Stephen Rea) as he investigates mysterious deaths that seem to have connections to nefarious website, FeardotCom.com. The disturbing site where voyeuristic torture-murder seems to be on the main menu and it’s the kind that stays with you long after you’ve closed your Netscape browser. In fact, it haunts you to the point of madness and ultimate suicide. That’s one site where people should really read the Yelp reviews before visiting.
4. Like. Share. Follow. (2017)
We’ve all done it. Whether we’ve harmlessly checked out a stranger’s vacation photos on Instagram, tracked someone’s tweet history, or looked up and ex’s profile on Facebook, we’ve all, in a way, cyberstalked someone. But few of us have taken it to the levels of creepiness that director Glenn Gers did with Like. Share. Follow.
When up and coming YouTuber Garrett (Keiynan Lonsdale, The Divergent Series: Allegiant, 2016) starts an online relationship with obsessed fan Shell (Emma Horvath, The Gallows Act II, 2019) things get more than creepy when the mentally unstable fan begins dismantling Garrett’s life. This leaves him to question if giving a complete stranger access to his deepest and most personal secrets is safe in the digital age.
3. Cam (2018)
Written by Isa Mazzei (50 States of Fright, 2020) 2018’s Cam is partially based on her own experiences as an internet camgirl and tells the story of Alice Ackerman (Madeline Brewer of Braid, 2018) as she obsesses with her rank within the network she performs. Her obsession gets to the point where she concocts a plan to fake suicide on cam for viewers and the plan works, catapulting her into one of the most popular girls on the network. But things start getting wonky with her account. She gets locked out, gets banned, and discovers an exact replica of herself performing under her cam name. Soon things spiral into a worldwide web of madness where violence is sure to ensue.
Brewer’s portrayal of the insecure Alice has been lauded by critics and fans alike winning awards at various film festivals around the world. Cam took home Best Actress (Brewer), Best Production Design and Audience Choice at the 2018 Brooklyn Horror Film Festival and the New Flesh Award for Best Feature Film for director Daniel Goldhaber along with writer Mazzei snagging the Cheval Noir Award for Best Screenplay at the Fantasia International Film Festival in 2018.
2. Like Me (2017)
Holding its world premiere at the 2017 South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, Robert Mockler’s Like Me hit all the right keys as the surreal ride through the alienation that the internet can bring upon oneself nabbed a Grand Jury nomination at the festival. The nonlinear narrative tackles the timely topics of a society based within a withdrawn, isolated existence and the inherent need for human interaction whether we realize it or not.
The story follows a reckless loner as she embarks on a crime spree, live streaming each act across her social media platforms. Her antics become more and more extreme as the views continue to grow resulting in an out of control, deranged desire to belong without actually existing in reality. Like Me is an impressionistic view of the disassociation that social media can ironically bestow using the most culminating of circumstances.
1. Host (2020)
Of course, Host is number one on the list. Was there ever any question? This quarantine film was birthed out of the Zoom get together movement that was happening around the world as it locked down in the face of the world-wide Covid-19 pandemic. Host began as a prank video made by director Rob Savage during a Zoom call with friends where he investigated creepy noises in his attic, and the video went viral when Savage posted the video online. the video was such a success that a feature-length film was planned and Host was born. The film was released on the Shudder streaming service and is currently sitting at 100% on the Tomatometer on Rotten Tomatoes and with an insane scares per minute ratio. There’s a reason everyone is talking about it!
There it is, folks. We’ve reached the end of our list. One that is sure to change as the months and years roll on and more tech-terrors are made to frighten our mainframes. What do you think of our picks? Did you find your favorite internet-based horror movie on this list? Let us know over on Twitter, Reddit, and the Horror Movie Fiend Club of Facebook. Until next time, fellow fiends… stay creepy!