Unfriended

Supernatural Skype chats! Phantom Facebook messages! The horror, the horror!

Unfriended

Rating UnfriendedUnfriendedUnfriendedUnfriended

Directed by Levan Gabriadze. Starring Shelley Hennig, Moses Storm, Renee Olstead, William Peltz, Courtney Halverson, Jacob Wysocki, Heather Sossaman. Written by Nelson Greaves.

I’ll give Unfriended this: using nothing more than Skype conference calls, YouTube videos, iMessenger and Facebook chat, and Google searches, the filmmakers have been able to make a coherent movie that’s been raking in big bucks at the multiplex.

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The result is almost an art film, an experiment not dissimilar to Mike Figgis’ Timecode. The filmmakers have taken a completely unique concept and made it work to the best of its ability.

They’re halfway there. If only the script weren’t so utterly stupid, they would have really had something.

Unfriended is being sold as a horror movie, but there’s nothing remotely scary during the duration of the film. There’s a “ghost” in a group Skype chat that has no profile picture, and we’re supposed to be terrified when the characters can’t hang up on it, or even close their windows. The horror!

At one point, the Mac pinwheel is used as a scare tactic as a character desperately moves her mouse cursor back and forth on the screen and we wait with baited breath for a Virus program to finish running.

Is this what we’ve been reduced to?

Throughout the entirety of the film, we’re looking at nothing more than the protagonist’s computer screen, and follow the action through the different windows she opens and closes.

That protagonist is Blaire Lily (Shelley Hennig), who is chatting to boyfriend Mitch (Moses Storm) as the film opens. They get a group conference call with their friends, and it picks up – even though neither of them answered. Spooky!

Those friends are Jess (Renee Olstead), Adam (Will Peltz), Ken (Jacob Wysocki), and Val (Courtney Halverson), characters who aren’t even the stereotypical teens – we learn nothing about them. Everybody gets real freaked out when the anonymous Skype account they can’t disconnect from starts communicating with them.

That’s because the account belongs to their dead friend Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman), who killed herself after video footage of her getting drunk and pooping herself was posted to YouTube. Now she wants revenge, and starts picking off her old chums one by one.

On a theoretical level, Unfriended is an interesting experiment. On an entertainment level, meanwhile… oh boy. The film plays out in real time, and it’s probably the longest 75 minutes (minus credits) you’ll ever spend in the cinema.

Throughout much of the film, I was watching the clock in the upper right corner of the protagonist’s Macbook, and was overjoyed when the film seemed to end a few minutes earlier than indicated; her computer’s time seems to run slightly slower than the actual time.

Unfriended was directed by Georgian-Russian director Levan Gabriadze and produced by Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch, Wanted, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter). To their credit, the film uses all the real-life websites and programs to good effect; most movies create their own low-budget search engines and whatnot to avoid licensing issues.

There’s something new and exciting about Unfriended – this is, at least conceptually, something we haven’t seen before – and the film touches on timely themes including cyber bullying. In story terms, however, it’s the same-old, same-old, and less effective than usual; if you’re looking for scares at the multiplex, check out Insidious: Chapter 3 instead. 


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