The genre of horror films has often transformed throughout the long history of cinema. We’ve seen it all, from vampires and monsters to demonic computer systems. Horror first began to creep into public consciousness in plays and novels during the Victorian era, before making its way onto our screens. Advancements in cinema brought plenty of gory, violent and twisted plots to the big screen.
More recently, the evolution of technology has influenced the horror genre. The accessibility of computers and the spread of social media have given birth to a new Frankenstein’s monster: the desktop horror. Today we find that the scariest things are hidden in data, which is is why for almost two decades (since “The Collingswood Story” was released in 2002), filmmakers have experimented with screenlife genres to chill us to the bone.
Username:666 (dir. nana825763, 2008)
The main character of this movie is actually a YouTube user, who discovers the terrifying consequences of searching for the username “666” on YouTube. After getting the name of this particular account from a colleague, we see the anonymous user type it into his computer only to find the account suspended. As per genre conventions, the user refreshes the page several times and things start to change. All the video tags turn into “X 666”, and all the text on the screen is replaced by “666”. When the channel does reload, a number of creepy videos appear, including one featuring four babies twisting their heads inside swirled graphics. The user found out that there was no way to close or delete this channel, and he couldn’t even shut down his computer….Would you dare watch this, or type the username by yourself?
Megan Is Missing (dir. Michael Goi, 2011)
Like the majority of films in this genre, Megan is Missing is based on actual events (or at least inspired by them). The plot of the movie revolves around the mysterious disappearance of two teenage girls – there are no clues except that they were both victims of an online stalker. The movie shows us their online chats, clowning around on the webcam, all that typical teenage stuff. Megan is the first girl to disappear and is reported missing, but just three weeks later her friend Amy goes missing too. The audience is invited to try and solve the case along with the girls’ friends and family, but neither of the two are found.
Cam (dir. Daniel Goldhaber, 2018)
This Netflix movie has potential to push the genre of screenlife horror further onto the big screen. The main plot of the film runs in virtual reality, but it actually feels real and a lot of the time is spent focused on the screenlife action. The story is about a girl, Alice, who works as a webcam model known to viewers by the name ‘Lola’. Alice-Lola is not only stripping in front of the camera, she also occasionally imitates suicide. Even though she attempts to draw a line between her real and virtual selves, things eventually go too far and her virtual identity, Lola, attempts to enslave her real self. What could be more scary than losing your identity in the virtual world?