10 great films that tell their stories through a computer screen

10 great films that tell their stories through a computer screen

Computer screen films or “Screenlife” films, a name coined by director and producer Timur Bekmambetov, are a subcategory of found footage films that play out entirely through computer screens, web cameras, phone screens and other such electronic devices. The genre has been around since the internet, but as technology becomes more advanced and cameras and screens become more and more a part of our everyday lives, so does the popularity of these Screenlife films.

While horror and thrillers tend to be the genres most often associated with the Screenlife method of storytelling, you’ll find some films on this list that fall under comedy, romance, and even satire. So whether you’re looking for a gritty horror or a serious romantic comedy, this list is sure to have something to pique your interest.

Related: The best found movies, ranked


10 The Den

That Stalker mask
IFC midnight

The Den is a Screenlife horror film about a sociology student named Elizabeth who, as her final project, begins cataloging her interactions with strangers on an Omegle-esque site known as “The Den”. Very shortly after starting the experiment, Elizabeth has her account hacked, and shortly after she witnesses a murder live on the random chat site. When the police tell her the murder was likely a hoax, Elizabeth sets out to prove otherwise, only to find herself drawn into something much darker than her project anticipated.

What sets The Den apart from other Screenlife horror films is its thematic focus on the internet’s ability to promote inhumanity, and that idea taken to its most violent conclusion as The Den becomes a new age Slasher movie where the killer’s gimmick is the ability to impersonate anyone by hacking their computer.

9 Steering wheels

Ratter Night Vision Stalking
Destination movies

Steering wheels is a psychological thriller, based on the short film Webcam by the same writer and director, Branden Kramer. IN steering wheels, a college girl named Emily moves to New York after breaking up with her boyfriend. Just as her new life begins, she is hacked and then stalked both online and in person by someone whose identity remains elusive. Her stalker’s actions eventually range from online harassment to cold-blooded physical violence.

Although not as gory or viscerally revolting as The Den, Steering wheels focus more on the insane paranoia that would come from constantly being watched. Additionally, with the film taking place entirely through Emily’s various electronic devices, you develop a sense of tense helplessness as you watch Emily’s situation worsen with each scene, not quite sure if you’re seeing her through the eyes of her stalker, or the stalker hers is already somewhere in the room with her and you’re just a fly on the wall who can’t do anything.

8 Enemies

Unfriended Blaire and Corrupted Feed
Universal images

Enemies is one of the first mainstream horror films to play out entirely on a computer screen. The film opens with our hitherto unrevealed protagonist reading a news article about the recent suicide of one Laura Barnes. We finally meet our main character, Blaire, when she gets on a group Skype call with a bunch of her friends and another random account that can’t be booted from the chat. When the faceless account reveals itself to be Laura Barnes, Blaire and her friends are forced to play twisted versions of games like “Never Have I Ever” or risk being possessed and forced to kill themselves on camera.

While Enemies boasts some pretty gruesome and gory moments, the film really shines when it showcases plenty of tense, scary moments that take full advantage of its premise. Imagine all the annoying troubleshooting stuff you have to deal with on a failing computer, but those were explicit threats.

7 Face 2 Face

Face 2 Face Madi and Teel
Screen media movies

Breaking the mold of most Screenlife films, Face 2 Face, is a heartfelt romantic drama between two high school students, rather than a suspenseful mystery or horror. Teel and Madison, two childhood friends who use online chat rooms to reconnect after Madison moves to California, begin to open up to each other about their lives. The film is able to be serious and take an unflinching look at dark themes such as abuse and suicide without becoming cynical or sardonic, putting it more in the same category as Looking for Alaska Unlike Euphoria. This is also partly thanks to the incredible acting of the two actresses Daniela Bobadilla (Anger control) and Daniel Amerman (Arrested Development) which provide such vulnerable and genuine performances that you immediately find yourself able to root for them.

6 Spree

Spree Kurt with Chart

A subversion of the horror-slasher Screenlife, the horror comedy Spree Joe Keery plays Kurt Kunkle, an insane Uber driver who tries to go viral by killing his passengers and posting the videos online. Fans of Stranger Things may be a bit of a shock at first, seeing Ultra Good-Boy Steve Harrington as a dim-witted influencer turned serial killer, but Keery takes that same charismatic energy and just aims it in a much different direction.

Collider called the movie “american psychopath for the digital age” and reviewers almost unanimously agree that Keery’s performance is incredible and the central tenet of what makes the film so enjoyable.

5 Profile

Profile Melody and Bilel
Focus functions

Profile is inspired by the real-life investigations done by French journalist Anna Erelle into the tactics used to recruit young women to Isis. In the film, British journalist Amy Whittaker creates an online profile pretending to be a recent convert to Islam. She is soon approached by an Isis recruiter named Bilel whom she seduces to get as much recruiting information from him as possible. But as her deficit deepens, it becomes harder to keep her two lives separate.

Top this with the fact that the entire film takes place on this woman’s very chaotic desktop setup, the scenes where she tries to talk to four people at once while clicking through multiple windows, tabs and applications, the film begins to develop the incredibly fast and overstimulating pace of Uncut gemstonesand perhaps the closest thing the Screenlife genre has to a grounded spy thriller so far.

4 Thomas in love

Thomas' therapist in love
Still from Thomas in love supporter

Thomas in love or Thomas is Amoureux from the distant year 2000, is perhaps the first feature film to take place exclusively on a computer screen. In this French drama, the titular Thomas is a man living in a very colorful and extremely online future where his extreme agoraphobia has kept him sequestered in his apartment for eight years. Thomas was once happy with his virtual girlfriend, Clara, and now wants a deeper and more human romantic connection. So with the help of an online prostitute service and his therapist’s insistence that he enroll in an online dating class, Thomas tries to see if he can meet someone who can help him feel happy again, and potentially cure him of his fear for the outside. .

3 See you soon

CU Soon Jimmy and Anu

See you soon is another thriller in the Screenlife genre, this one from India. It’s claim to fame is that it was shot entirely on an iPhone. The film follows Jimmy Kurien, a bank employee who meets Anumol Sebastian on a dating app and quickly falls in love with her despite never having met her in person. Things take a turn for the worse when Anu calls Jimmy one day with bruises on her face, and when Jimmy gets entangled in her personal life, she disappears. Jimmy becomes the prime suspect in her disappearance, and Jimmy and his friend, Kevin, must work together to find out what happened to Anu in order to prove his innocence. If you want to watch a Screenlife mystery thriller that doesn’t have all the gore and violence The Den, See you soon is something that should go on your watch list.

Related: Why fans can’t stop talking about low-budget horror

2 Host

Host hides under blanket
Vertigo release

Host is a British supernatural horror film about a group of teenagers who accidentally summon a demon while performing an online séance during a Zoom meeting. Similar in many ways Enemies But rather than being punished for the death of a former classmate, the demon haunting the film’s ensemble cast has no immediate origin other than being born through their ritual. Of all the Screenlife titles on this list, Host has perhaps the most unique production process.

The film started life as an online prank that writer and director Rob Savage played on his friends while on a Zoom call with them in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. Savage had recorded the prank and their reactions, and after the short film went viral, Savage developed the story into a feature film. The actors and director all filmed in their separate homes and were in charge of all their own special effects and stunts, using practical effects such as fishing line that the actors pulled to make objects appear as if they were moving on their own. This completely independent filmmaking also did not include a script, but rather an incredibly detailed treatment that the actors followed in real life, not even realizing what the fate of their fellow cast members would be.

1 Applicant

Jon Cho is applying
Display jewels

This list has a lot of movies that involve someone trying to solve another person’s disappearance, but the one with the highest budget, most high-profile cast, and most positive reception is definitely 2018 Applicant. IN Applicant David Kim (played by Jon Cho) teams up with a police detective to investigate the disappearance of his daughter Margot. In fact, of all the Screenlife movies on this list Applicant may be the most famous and well-received, Jon Cho received a Best Actor nomination from the Independent Spirit Awards, and the film has been widely praised for the unpredictability of its sprawling and fast-paced action. As far as Screenlife mysteries go, this may well be the best. Plus there’s a lot to love in a film about a father trying his absolute best to get his daughter back to safety.

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