Unfriended

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Posted April 15, 2015 by in

Rating

Total Score
 
 
 
 
 

0/ 5

Quick Stats

Genre: horror
 
Director: Levan Gabriadze (as Leo Gabriadze)
 
MPAA Rating: R
 
Actors: Heather Sossaman, Matthew Bohrer, Courtney Halverson
 
Length: 82 min
 
Release Date: 5/17/2015
 
Studio: Bazelevs Company, Blumhouse Productions
 
 
What We Thought

This is not a movie. It’s an anti-movie with zero merit as a theatrical release.

by Daniel Hodgson
Full Article
 

“I hope this isn’t going to be the whole movie,” I whispered to a buddy of mine ten minutes in to Unfriended.  But it was.  Unfriended is 82 minutes of looking at the desktop of a teenage girl’s Macbook.
     That’s all the movie is.  She Skypes, watches YouTube videos, messages friends, and reads emails.  Periodically, she listens to Spotify.  That’s Unfriended in a nutshell.
     It does have a story.  A group of teenagers hang out on Skype.  An anonymous guest joins them.  They assume it’s some kind of glitch, or a hacker.  But no matter what they do, whoever it is—or whatever—it is, won’t go away.
     Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm) however, believes it is a ghost, possibly the ghost of their deceased friend Laura (Heather Sossaman), who committed suicide exactly one year earlier after being cyberbullied for an embarrassing YouTube video.  Mitch’s girlfriend Blaire (Shelley Hennig) receives messages from Laura’s account on Facebook.  Surely, someone hacked her account in a sick prank, right?
     The story plays out on Blaire’s Macbook in real-time.  Mitch sends Blaire a link to a website that explains the mythos of the story:  1)  Don’t open a link from the account of a deceased person, 2) a ghost can possess you, and force you to kill yourself, 3) the only way to escape harm is to confess any wrongdoings.
     And so we read from the website, and we read Blaire’s messages.  And we read, and we read, and we read. Just what you go to the movies for, right?  There is nothing cinematic about this.  Now, maybe watching Unfriended on a laptop might be a different experience, where it might seem as if it’s actually happening—and that might have been the original intent—but this movie, or whatever it is, has no merit as a theatrical release.
     Because it plays out a laptop in what looks like a single take, it is unable to create tension through editing, and atmosphere with foreboding lighting of physical spaces, which is crucial for a horror movie.  The cyber aesthetic hurts the actors, who are constantly upstaged by chat windows and web surfing.  This is not a movie.  It’s an anti-movie.
     Some might call it a found-footage film, however, nothing is actually recorded, so there is no footage to find; we’re looking at something that’s happening, rather than something that’s happened.  Stylistically, Unfriended actually comes closer to Chronicle than to Paranormal Activity, in that all of the cameras (or in this case, webcams) exist diegetically.  However, Unfriended cheats in the use of sound effects by adding a low rumbling sound when the ghost is up to something.  After four Paranormal Activity movies and a spin-off, the technique is as cliched as it is ineffective—and so are its jump scares.
     Unfriended is just not scary at all.  It is, at best, an unintentional comedy; the audience at my screening laughed at the adolescent Skypers, a collection of insufferable douchebags who argue about who slept with who (and how long it lasted) while a supernatural computer-hacking entity is brutally murdering them.  The first is a heinous bitch who told Laura to kill herself, and is unapologetic about it.  [Spoilers from here on] The rest of the Skypers were participants in the cyberbullying as well, and one by one, each of them dies, unrepentant.
I would compare Unfriended, to I Spit on Your Grave, in that a young woman is horribly assaulted by multiple assailants, and then extracts a horrible revenge against them.  Her attack is not sexual, but psychological, yet still deeply personal and an assault nonetheless, so brutal that it drives her to suicide; her death is on their hands.
     But who is Laura?  She gets a modicum of backstory, but there’s little more to her than “victim girl,” so there’s nothing more to the assault/revenge story than just that, assault and revenge.  One of the teens has the opportunity for redemption through tearful, Catholic confession, but the catharthis is denied.  They are all villains in a villain tragedy, all of them despicable, and the only satisfaction to be had from Unfriended is in their comeuppance.  To pluralize what a college lit teacher said of Macbeth, “By the end, all you can do is say, ‘Well…thank god those evil sons-of-bitches are dead.’”  A friend of mine, however, summarized Unfriended in one word when the credits rolled:  dogshit.

 


About the Author

Daniel Hodgson

Daniel has a degree in film from the University of Texas at Austin, and writes about himself in the third-person, because that's the fashion.

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