While Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 and Furious 7 battled for the top spot at the box office (Furious 7 won), the found footage horror film Unfriended quietly took the number 3 spot and made six times its production budget. In other words, Unfriended was a massive success.
Unfriended focuses on 80 minutes in the life of high school student Blaire Lily, in which an unseen stalker terrorizes and then kills her friends while she watches helplessly via a Skype call. The entire film happens in real time, and it was shot to look like a Mac user interface. With such a technology-heavy premise, it should come as no surprise that there is a major viral marketing campaign behind Unfriended.
Unfriended fans, or the curious who have yet to see the film, can find the “suicide” video central to the plot of Unfriended on websites like YouTube and LiveLeak, as well as the video that, in Unfriended, led to Laura Barns’ suicide.
A Facebook account in Laura Barns’ name, which is heavily featured in Unfriended, actually exists. Pictures in the “photos of Laura” section show the actresses who portray Laura and Blaire together in a typical selfie. The most recent posts on the page make reference to someone who has allegedly hacked into the account and is sending threatening responses to any Facebook user who messages Laura. Threatening messages sent from the account of Laura Barns are important at several points in Unfriended. A Facebook community called RIP Laura Barns also exists, though the dates do not correspond with the dates provided in Unfriended. All of the characters that appear in Unfriended have carefully crafted Facebook pages, complete with likes, casual posts, and friends of their own.
The viral campaign seems to have won over younger film goers. Deadline reports that 75 percent of the audience that saw Unfriended opening weekend was under 25. The Laura Barns Facebook page has 11,000 likes and a steady string of posters. Some of the posters scold anyone who points out that the film, and therefore Laura Barns, isn’t real.
“sorry folks, it has started again…I am asking, please whoever is behind this, leave us alone. Please. Leave. Us. Alone.”
Reviews for Unfriended have been mixed. Some critics call Unfriened a refreshing twist on the genre and a commentary on how the internet and cyberbullying in particular have affected our lives. Others strongly disliked it. How much of a hit Unfriended is remains to be seen. At least until Universal green lights Unfriended 2.
[Image via Bing]