Unfriended

Unfriended

Director: Levan Gabriadze

Writer: Nelson Greaves

Cast: Heather Sossaman, Matthew Bohrer, Courtney Halverson, Shelley Hennig, Moses Storm, Will Peltz, Renee Olstead, Jacob Wysocki, Mickey River, Cal Barnes, Christa Hartsock

Synopsis: A group of online chat room friends find themselves haunted by a mysterious, supernatural force using the account of their dead friend.

MPAA Rating: Rated R for violent content, pervasive language, some sexuality, and drug and alcohol use - all involving teens

Stevennix2001's Rating:

6 / 10

Pros:


- Offers a nice subtle social commentary regarding online bullying

- The mere concept of using skype and the internet to convey this horror story was kind of ingenious.

- The cinematography was fairly realistic, as the webcam would periodically freeze up or get static, in order to create the illusion that we're watching an actual skype conversation.

- Shelley Hennig delivers a great performance.

Cons:

- Characters are written poorly, and made out to be idiots throughout most of the film

- The acting was horrible for the most part; outside of Shelley's performance.

- Outside of carrying a great concept, along with some interesting ideas pertaining to today's social media, "Unfriended" doesn't really offer too much else in terms of substance.


The skype movie!

As some of you might have heard, "Unfriended" is a revolutionary horror film that was shot entirely through Skype. Sure, the movie also uses other online outlets like google, gmail, facebook and youtube to help tell it's story. However, the majority of the interaction comes from six friends sharing one skype session together.

Throughout various parts of the movie, the internet connection becomes a bit static, which causes the movie screen that we see become static as well. This is used to help create the illusion that the audience is actually a part of the online conversation. And in a strange way, it kind of works. Granted, I wouldn't say that "Unfriended" was scary in any way, but the concept of it is rather intriguing.

As we watch these six teenagers chat on Skype together, a mysterious user joins the conversation with them. They try to disconnect the mysterious user from the chat session, but Skype doesn't allow them to for some reason. Like most of us would, they try logging off and logging back on again, but that doesn't seem to work either. Eventually, the user starts to make itself known as the mysterious ghost of their deceased friend, Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman).

Before she died, she was a victim of an elaborate prank that somehow ended up being filmed, and put online for millions to laugh at her expense. After the video went viral, Laura would start to receive distasteful comments from various online trolls like, "Kill yourself", or whatever other juvenile statements kids make these days on the internet.

Of course, all this online bullying leads to her eventually killing herself in a public setting, which also gets filmed and uploaded online for people to see. Think "I Know What You Did Last Summer", with a found footage style twist added to it. But instead of putting up with the shaky cam motion that usually comes with the found footage style of horror, this one replaces it with static riddled screens that can freeze up from time to time, in order to convince it's audience that we're watching an actual online webcam conversation among these scared teenagers.

Without giving away too much, the teenagers are inevitably forced to play in some sort of elaborate game for their lives. Meanwhile, the main character, Blaire Lily (Shelley Hennig), covertly manages to look up stuff online about the situation at hand using various media like google, facebook, and etc. Heck, she even secretly talks to her boyfriend on facebook, during this elaborate death game the ghost plays with them on Skype. Of course, I know some of my readers might be wondering why didn't they simply turn the computers off immediately once this mysterious user threatened to kill them? It's quite simple really. They're idiots. Granted, Laura's ghost does threaten them by saying that anyone who logs off is going to die.

I know some people will argue saying that's a valid excuse, but even before she starts to kill any of them, you'd think that at least one of those kids would've just said at the beginning, "F*** this s***! I'm out." Yes, I know that would've resulted in that same said kid dying right away if something like that occurred, but it would've helped make the story more believable because it would firmly establish why the characters simply don't log off their computers. Not to mention, it would've made the characters seem less idiotic.

Like most modern horror films these days, majority of the movie revolves around the main characters acting like idiots in order for the plot to move along. Throughout most of the film, these teenagers act like they're innocent bystanders, as they're tortured by this ghost talking to them through the internet. However, we slowly start to learn that everything is not always as it seems, and how we all have skeletons to hide.

While I can't say I bought into most of the actor's performances on screen, I will say that Shelley Hennig does a surprisingly great job in this movie. Her performance alone sells you on this feature. It's almost a shame her other co actors couldn't live up to her performance, as it was kind of obvious they were acting because I never bought that any of them were genuinely scared for their lives; apart from Shelley of course.

Like "The Blair Witch Project", "Unfriended" isn't that scary to watch, but it was interesting because of it's ingenious concept. Would I want to see another found footage film shot this way? Unless it's a romantic comedy that explores the nature of long distance relationships in today's digital era, then I'm going to have to say "no" because I can't see how you can tell another horror film like this, without it coming off as some cheap knock of "Unfriended."

However, I have to admit that I was impressed by this movie's basic concept, and I can definitely appreciate it's subtle social commentary on the horrors of online bullying these days. Having said that though, it's almost a crying shame the characters weren't written a bit better; along with some better acting performances. Otherwise, I probably would've became enamored by this film, but as it currently stands now?

It's a decent indie horror flick that has a unique concept, and interesting ideas, but it lacks a bit in it's own execution.

Definitely worth checking out if you're a die hard horror junkie, and you're aching to find something original to watch. On the surface, "Unfriended" seems like a great story from a conceptual level, but it needed some more buffering before being released to realize it's full potential.

© 2015 Steven Escareno

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