Unfriended: A Skype horror story

When I worked at Skype a few years ago, none of us would ever have imagined that the software we worked so hard to design and build would one day feature in a horror movie.

Unfriended

The tech teams worked for months (probably years) to build and launch the feature we called “Multi-party-video”.  The idea that multiple people could be using video on the same Skype call was a game-changer for us.  Our teams were spread in locations around the world including Luxembourg, Estonia, Sweden, London, San Francisco – so to us it was a critical business tool.

But it was already something millions of people used to keep in touch with distant friends and families. The first time I saw my own nephew was on on a Skype call in 2006.  Skype even made a TV advert about about ‘Baby Laura’ being introduced to her grandparents.  All together now – Awwwww, how cute!

Fast forward to 2015 and Unfriended, a three-hour-long teen-horror-movie with a technological twist, goes on general release today (17th April) in the United States and on 1st May in the UK.

I love the way their trailer starts with that familiar “beep” of an incoming Skype message, followed by backing music reminiscent of Facebook’s “Look back” timeline videos that went viral in early 2014.

This movie unfolds over a teenager’s computer screen as she and her friends are stalked by an unseen figure who seeks vengeance for a shaming video that led a vicious bully to kill herself a year earlier.  I haven’t seen the movie myself yet (but will do as soon as it is released in the UK).  But here’s a sample of what the critics are saying:

What kind of a movie takes place entirely on one screwed-up teen’s computer screen? That would be Unfriended, a creep-you-out experiment in terror that damn near pulls off every trick up its cyber sleeve.

– Rolling Stone

More funny than scary, “Unfriended” is less about its putative subject of cyber-bullying than Hollywood finding ways to update supernatural horror film clichés to fit ever-changing American society.

– New York Post

In many ways, I’m proud to have played a small part in something that has become so main-stream. It’s not only “Unfriended”, but Skype has also appeared in other Hollywood movies such as “Think Like a Man” (2012), and “The Five Year Engagement” (2012).  Hollywood Actors are even auditioning over Skype (it’s not just us mere mortals who are asked to do job interviews over Skype).  It even appeared once in The Simpsons!

simpsonsWhat an interesting legacy.

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Oh, and one more thing ….
Sleep well, and don’t have nightmares …

Derek Morgan, 17th April 2015

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