New Review: Unfriended (2015)
Director: Levan Gabriadze
Cast: Shelley Hennig, Heather Sossaman, Moses Jacob Storm, Renee Olstead, Courtney Halverson, Will Peltz, Jacob Wysocki
The entirety of Unfriended takes place in real time, and transpires on a single computer screen. It's an intriguing approach for a horror movie, but not an original one. Last year's The Den did something somewhat similar, and worked as a surprisingly terrifying horror show (especially if you watched it on your iPod, like I did). Unfriended is not so successful. There's not a second of it that's scary, and there are more than a few instances where the movie becomes quite laughable.
A year ago to the day, high school student Laura Barnes (Heather Sossaman) shot herself in the face after an embarrassing video of her was posted on the web (it basically shows her passed out drunk with poop running down her leg). Laura's best friend Blaire (Shelley Hennig) is obviously still grief-stricken. She's introduced re-watching both the embarrassing video and the footage of Laura's suicide, but she immediately snaps out of it when her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm) starts a video chat with her, holds a knife to the camera, and demands that she take off her shirt.
Before Blaire and Mitch can start having cyber sex, they're interrupted by their friends Jess (Renee Olstead), Adam (Will Peltz), and Ken (Jacob Wysocki). There seems to be an anonymous hacker joined in the chat as well, and this person is using Laura's account to send messages to the group. One of the kids thinks that whoever it is is simply being a troll, which leads to Blaire uttering the film's best line: "What's a troll?"
Blaire's first thought is that the hacker could be the super snooty Val (Courtney Halverson), but Val is soon dismissed as a suspect when she joins the chat as well. Things take a sinister turn when the mystery figure begins accusing everyone of playing a part in Laura's death. He/she first starts turning the group against each other by revealing embarrassing secrets (nice little Christian girl Blaire isn't the virginal good girl she claims to be), then by possessing them and forcing them to commit suicide.
The first to go is Val, who apparently dies after her computer falls to the ground. The group tries to reassure themselves that nothing supernatural is going on by saying that maybe Val, who has a history of epilepsy, simply had a seizure. Blaire thinks that's a very good possibility, and even Googles "val seizures" to see what comes up. The other members begin dying in far more gruesome ways. One kid slices his hand and throat with a blender, while another shoves a hair iron down their throat (ouchy!).
Like most characters in a bad slasher movie, the characters in Unfriended are one-dimensional and intensely unlikable. Some of the kids admit that they feel Laura deserved exactly what she got, although the movie doesn't really elaborate on that. Surely they can't feel that way because she pooped on herself. It also goes without saying that all of the characters are a few cans shy of a six pack. There's one funny scene where Mitch sends Blaire a link to an article that's entitled, with big bold letters, DO NOT ANSWER MESSAGES FROM DEAD PEOPLE. Did he really need to send her that link? Shouldn't that be common knowledge?
Defenders of Unfriended say that the movie's approach brings an interesting spin to the story, but it's that very approach that ensures that there's not a single frightening moment in the movie. Most of the time the characters are filmed on small video boxes, so when the lights turn off later on, it's not very frightening because the action is taking place on a very small portion of the frame. Other times the shots turn staticy, making it hard to see what's happening. So much happens during the movie between the kids (at one point, a gun is fired), that you start to wonder, where are their parents? (Yes, it's said that Mitch and Blaire's parents are out together; what about everyone else's?)
Its saying something that the most entertaining segment in the movie comes when the hacker/ghost/killer forces the kids to play a game of "Never Have I Ever," where Connie Conway's song "How You Lie, Lie, Lie" is put to very good use. The rest of the movie is really very boring, not to mention irresponsible. If Unfriended has a message, it's that bullys are a-holes and they deserve to die horrible deaths. While it's easy to agree with the first part of that message, the second part is downright ugly.
It's sad to hear when a kid takes their own life, or when other kids are killed by the kid they were tormenting. It should never come to that, and we live in a time where incidents like that happen with depressing frequency. Unfriended doesn't ask us to think about the problem; instead, it simply adds to it. It takes a very serious and very relevant subject and uses it as window dressing for a dumb slasher movie. In other words, it isn't just stupid, it's despicable as well.
Rated R for disturbing violent content, lots of profanity, some sexuality, alcohol and drug use
Final Grade: * (out of ****)
What did you think of this movie? :)
Other Thoughts on Unfriended (2015)! :D
- Teens Terrorized over the ‘Net in Found Footage Horror Flick
4 Stars. Teens Terrorized over the ‘Net in Found Footage Horror Flick ~On April 9, 2013, Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman) drank too much at a high school classmate’s
- TheFrightFile Review: Unfriended (2015) by Dustin Putman
Unfriended (2015) - 3/4 Stars - Despite its imperfections, this is a smart entry in the horror genre, a film that isn't just about spooking its audience, but actually has something meaningful and urgent to say about the modern world as it stands in 2
- Unfriended Movie Review & Film Summary (2015) | Roger Ebert
* out of 4