Unfriended is a horror movie told completely through the screen of a single computer. To be more clear, it shows you the “live” monitor of the main character the whole time. The story unfolds through a series of Skype video chats, as well as other popular sites like YouTube and Facebook. The only top site missing was Twitter (maybe because 250 characters wouldn’t add anything of importance). It is an interesting concept, although quite ridiculous. A group of cyber-bullying teenagers are talking online together on the anniversary of a colleague’s suicide when their chat is visited by an unwanted guest. Harassment ensues. I gave it the benefit of the doubt.
I can see many people calling this The Blair Witch Project of the new age. The video calls and status updates explore a whole new format, much like the found footage of a camcorder was a decade ago. I have to hand it to the filmmakers for taking this risk of deviating from the norm. Sure, there have been movies featuring scary people on the internet (see: Fear Dot Com), but no film has ever been this committed to keeping your eyes on the screen within the screen.
Its premise may be creative, but Unfriended is an example of a fresh idea that wasn’t meant to be. The novelty wears off after thirty minutes or so. I didn’t think anything would scare me from the tiny picture-in-picture sized chat screens and I wasn’t proved wrong. The kills were poorly done; obvious digital blood spatters and silly murder weapons. Maybe if I didn’t need to squint to see them be carried out I would have enjoyed them more. The best death comes from something simple: a gun. This scene has by far the most tension and should have been used as the tent pole to model the other killings after. The story goes exactly the route you would expect with no twists or turns. I started getting bored at the end, wanting it to be over already. Some of the most hostile moments include buffering videos, grayed out unclickable web page buttons, and turning out the lights. I find more terror in real life when the video I’m trying to watch won’t stream.
Digital noise plagues the faces of the teens throughout Unfriended. It gets progressively worse as the film goes on but it never amounts to anything. I was hoping for one kill scene the unsettling static would suddenly take over a character’s whole body, completely engulfing and smothering/crushing them to death. That’s only one thing I would have changed out of many, but I unfortunately don’t have that kind of power (yet). I appreciate the message of Unfriended. It is, in general, to be a better person and treat others with more respect. Not just on social media, but all the time. It’s a shame this idea didn’t have a better movie built around it. Even though I would classify this as a bad movie, I would still recommend a curious viewing by those who have ever felt the spine-chilling notion of someone on the internet not being who or what they seem.
2 cyber-bullies out of 5