Fantasia Review: CYBERNATURAL

Cybernatural 2

While the found footage/pov sub-genre has seemingly been done to death, this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival has done its best to prove otherwise, with completely solid efforts such as the Patrick Brice/Mark Duplass horror-comedy CREEP (review soon), and now, Leo Gabriadza’s Skype-based horror film CYBERNATURAL.  The technology-led horror film not only provides viewers with enough shock and terror to keep you on the edge of your seats, but also gives genre fans a film that keeps the twists coming, right up until the very end.

Taking place entirely via a series of internet conversations between a group of six”friends”, CYBERNATURAL revolves around the group speaking on the one year anniversary of a classmate committing suicide following an embarrassing video being posted about her online. When a frisky Skype video call between the film’s lead, Blaire, and her boyfriend Mitch, is interrupted by the rest of their friends, along with a mysterious stranger, the film pretty much hits the ground running. When the group of friends can’t seem to get rid of the seventh person involved in the video chat, strange things begin to happen. Facebook messages appear from the deceased girl’s profile, Spotify songs begin to play, basically whoever (or whatever) is behind the faceless profile, is intent on playing a game with the six friends, and as the film plays out, with good reason.

Little by little, the stranger begins to force the group to play various games with each other, with their lives at stake, and with personal secrets being revealed during the film’s duration. It’s somewhat of a TEN LITTLE INDIANS approach, but with more of a supernatural approach, one that sinks under your skin, and does a very good job giving you the creeps multiple times during the film. Each of the six friends have their own skeletons hidden in their respective closets, and as the film goes on, it’s made apparent that some or all of them may have played their own parts in what may have led up to the young girl killing herself in the previous year. it’s that “nobody’s innocent” approach to storytelling that really shines in this one, as the facade of each character is stripped away, you begin to see who each of them really are, and when they’re in danger of losing their lives to whoever is doing this to them, they begin to turn on each other, as human beings would most definitely do in reality. It’s a great touch, to see how the antagonist begins to use the group to basically take care of each other during some of the film, which is definitely a unique twist to the genre.

CYBERNATURAL is a pretty nerve-wracking horror film (in a good way), but it also speaks a lot on today’s issues of cyber-bullying, and how people can hide behind a monitor while being feeling like they can get away with hurting other people. While it never resorts to standing on a soapbox and preaching, it does a good job at making you realize how easy it is for people to make someone else’s life hell from your computer. While it addresses those issues and forces you to see the faults within the film’s lead characters, it never makes any of the six friends into caricatures, they all feel like real and genuine characters and though they’re all flawed, they seem very real,  a testament to great performances by TEEN WOLF‘s Shelley Hennig as Blaire, as well as the rest of the cast.

While the idea of watching an entire film from the point of view of an internet conversation might seem odd or downright boring to some, it’s definitely not the case with CYBERNATURAL. It’s a fresh and exciting horror film that breathes new life into the POV subgenre, definitely one the check out.

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