A load of bully
There have been some good—actually great—horror movies released the last couple of years. Unfriended, the latest entry in the tired found-footage subgenre, isn’t one of them.
What you get here is an entire film that requires you to watch somebody’s computer screen where a bunch of obnoxious teens are Skyping one another. A ghost-like presence inexplicably enters the conversation and knocks off the kids, one by one, while they scream and plead for mercy. They, of course, never go out of frame for too long and always manage to take their camera with them no matter how much their lives are in danger.
The chat starts with Blaire (Shelley Hennig) and Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm … yes, that’s his name), a boyfriend and girlfriend talking about the dirty things they’ll do on prom night when a bunch of their friends rudely join the chat party. They all goof on one another and wonder who the unidentified person is who has mysteriously joined the chat.
As it happens, the chat is taking place on the one-year anniversary of their friend Laura’s suicide. Laura (Heather Sossaman) couldn’t stand the public ridicule she endured after somebody posted a video of her passed out and dumping in her pants at a party. Now it appears Laura, or somebody pretending to be Laura by using her social networking accounts, is out for revenge. Hell hath no fury like a teenaged girl who has had a video of her passed-out shitting her pants posted on the internet.
Like the mostly lousy Paranormal Activity movies before it, Unfriended is one of those movies that make you wait … and wait … and wait. When something does finally happen, like one of the kids putting his hand in a blender because the malevolent force made him do it, it’s most definitely not worth the wait. I found myself laughing more than cringing.
For 82 minutes, we watch Blaire’s home screen as she uses Skype, Facebook, YouTube, research sites, etc. Some might see this film as a cinematic time capsule, a social commentary on our addiction to the internet and it’s social pitfalls. I see it as really, really lazy.
Still, the setup could’ve allowed for a good scare or two. Like The Blair Witch Project before it, the director doesn’t allow us to ever see who is causing the mayhem. The teens knock themselves off because a ghost is possessing them, or some nonsense like that. I was waiting for a ghost to show up, but it never happens. You just get teens screaming “No, don’t do that!” and “No, I didn’t do that!” and “Show me your boobs!” The screaming gets to the point where it’s utterly annoying.
Yeah, I know, cyber-bullying is a real thing. Unfriended is trying to tell today’s youth that it’s a bad idea to post pictures of your friends taking a shit. Cyber-bullying is bad form, people. Bad form. It’s also, as it turns out, a very boring and gimmicky subject for a horror film.
You just know Unfriended is going to spawn sequels where other social networks play a more prominent part. Spotify is just a supporting player in this one, but I can see a sequel where a bunch of friends have to listen to an 80 minute Spotify playlist, and each song gives a hint as to how somebody will die. Or how about a Words with Friends death match? The possibilities are endless and vigorously lame.
If you like horror, go with The Babadook or It Follows. Those films actually have real narratives where the protagonists actually leave the house, and there are real cinematographers and editors involved. If you have a strong urge to see Unfriended, just Skype a couple of your friends, call them some bad names, and stare at them while they yell at you on your home screen for 82 minutes. It’s basically the same thing and would probably be far more entertaining.