A movie that begs the question, how many early college age kids are really using Skype? I mean phones have kinda replaced the usefulness for that.
Unfriended is the story of six friends, told entirely through a computer screen (Skype mostly), as they battle an entity from their past. The friends join a group Skype chat to catch up and discuss plans for when they all return home from school. There is Blaire, the group virgin(Shelley Hennig). Her loving boyfriend, Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm). The douchey best friend, Adam (Will Peltz). The slutty chick, Jess (Renee Olstead). The fat techy buddy, Ken (Jacob Wysocki), and the bitchy friend no one really likes, Val (Courtney Halverson). The group comes together on the anniversary of the suicide of former classmate and friend Laura (Heather Sossaman). Though that is not the reason for the call, it slowly factors in, turning into a cat a mouse game as a seemingly supernatural entity claiming to be their dead former classmate seeking vengeance, begins to take out the group one at a time, in an effort to locate the person responsible for a video shaming her.
Unfriended is a surprisingly innovative movie that disguises itself as a cliche slasher film. It would be easy to dismiss, based on the clumsy marketing and the familiar, if not completely hokey story, that seems like a complete rip off of so many genre flicks that came before it. While that may be true, to disregard Unfriended on that premise alone, would be a mistake. The story blends so well with it’s gimmicky style that it becomes entertaining, and engaging throughout.
Found footage is nothing new, in fact it’s been done death. It has become the genre go to for low budget directors looking to just get some footage out there. Becoming the cheapest medium, the found footage shooting style has saturated the market within an inch of it’s life, forcing viewers into the “approach with caution” mentality when facing the decision to watch one of these movies. The marketing campaign pigeon-holed Unfriended into that category. The trailers did this film no favors, making it look and feel like another stereotypical, goofy,and poorly done horror feature. In reality this is a film that is both fun and innovative.
Taking the extremely ballsy approach of creating an entire film that unfolds in real time, via a computer screen, the brilliance of Unfriended is that it never reaches beyond it’s means, and never tries to be something it’s not. In his first wide release feature, director Levan Gabriadze keeps things simple, which in turn, creates a clever take on an otherwise uninspired genre. Creating an intensely personal atmosphere by never moving off the computer screen, and doing well to create a story that explains why unplugging is simply not an option, Gabriadze keeps his audience invested even when the story becomes predictable.
Product placement can be a bit tiresome if lacking subtlety and done with no regard for the story (looking at you Transformers 4), but here it works well and makes sense. The computer screen is clearly apple. Itunes is featured as well as Skype (of course), and Youtube gets its fair share of screen time too, but it never feels hokey. It’s more of a commentary on the use of social media as a medium to allow spirits in. This creates an interesting premise that will make this film memorable. The idea that our generation is so used to having media at our fingertips at all times, but what if that media is used against us? How do you escape it then? This is the overlapping story arch that spans the entire film. While it does touch on the concept that social media is taking over our lives,and the pitfalls of cyber bullying, it never gets too preachy and sticks to it’s schtick to the very end. Unfriended is a horror movie and it doesn’t try to be too conscious of it’s incidental hidden messages.
This is by no means an oscar winning installment in the horror genre. If compared against the juggernauts of its own classification, it would fall well short of the horror mainstays, but if judged simply off of it’s own realistic aspirations, it fares quite well. That being said it is certainly not without it’s faults. The writing here is just not very good. The story bounces around and never really settles in at any point. Choosing strictly to be entertaining, the biggest problem is that you never really care about the characters you’re stuck with in this chat room. Not much in the way of development, Unfriended is a choppy at best screenplay, that makes it difficult to invest in it’s core cast.
The acting is middling at best. While not terrible by any stretch, there are moments where the hamminess of it all becomes far too apparent. Thankfully the worst of the cast is not around for very long, allowing you to enjoy the latter frames of the film much more.
The most egregious flaw for Unfriended is not the writing, not the acting, directing, cinematography, story, gimmick, or anything to do with the actual production of the film. No! The biggest issue here, comes from the studio that marketed the movie. The marketing for this feature was so unbelievably bad, it’s a wonder they paid any real money to whatever entity cut the trailer and came up with the advertising. If you have not seen the movie trailer for Unfriended, and are interested in watching this movie, I beg of you to avoid said trailer at all costs. It’s A horror movie, which comes with a fair amount of predictability (at least usually), so why on earth would you decide to cut together a two and a half minute preview that completely gives away the whole damn story. It literally gives away the whole movie! I mean come on bro!
If you find a way to ignore the marketing and trailers, if you can see past some of the poorer performances, if you can forgive some of the predictability, and if you can look beyond some of the poor writing and lack of development, then you will be delightfully surprised with this film. Unfriended breathes some new life and gives a much different take on a saturated genre. Never over shooting, never trying too hard, Unfriended remains engaging and entertaining throughout, hooking the audience with some innovative filmmaking.
3/5 Not Bad Bro