DIRECTOR: Levan Gabriadzeunfriended_ver2

CAST: Shelley Hennig, Moses Jacob Storm, Renee Olstead, Will Peltz, Jacob Wysocki, Courtney Halverson, Heather Sossaman, Mickey River, Cal Barnes

RUNNING TIME: 83 mins

CERTIFICATE: 15

BASICALLY…: A group of teenage friends are confronted during a Skype chat by the account of a girl who, one year ago, killed herself after some nasty cyberbullying – and one of them is responsible…

 

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

Like most horror flicks, Unfriended takes many opportunities to shock its audience, whether they be via a jump scare or a moment of gore or even something unknown lurking in the darkened background.

But by far, the most shocking thing about this movie is one simple fact – it’s NOT terrible.

Yes, against all odds, this silly teen slasher movie – set entirely from the perspective of teenager Blaire’s (Shelley Hennig) laptop with all the action taking place on Skype, iMessage and even Spotify as we see the cursor pick out certain tracks for its soundtrack – isn’t as mind-blowingly awful as everyone assumed it would be. This is especially shocking, seeing as how it’s done in this particular format which in any other situation spells certain doom, but here it’s handled surprisingly well, and – even more shockingly – intelligently too.

The basic set-up, which sees five or so teenage friends being consistently harassed by someone or something claiming to be Laura Barns, another girl who one year prior committed suicide after an embarrassing video of her leaks online, is nothing all that new and is akin to most revenge horror flicks we’ve seen a million times over. Even the concept of it all being online isn’t entirely new, with films like The Den and Hideo Nakata’s Chatroom all tackling viral threats in their own ways. What IS relatively new, however, is what it’s trying to get across, where those films and beyond haven’t exactly been able to crack before; its stance against the ongoing threat of cyberbullying.

The main characters, although acted well by their counterparts, are all awful people when you get down to it, each of them having their own dark secrets which are eventually revealed over the course of the film, including some related to the video that caused the death of their mutual friend. Because they are so terrible in their own narcissistic agendas, it makes the eventual murder scenes (and before you criticise that spoiler, it’s a slasher film; did you really think they’d all get out of it alive?) all the more satisfying as this entity claiming to be Barns slowly picks them off in surprisingly creative and fun methods.

This is what makes the film work despite itself; as well as being a sly commentary on the over-reliance on technology not just by youths but by a great deal of us nowadays (why do you think nobody simply shuts down their computer?), it presents the hard-hitting truth that any form of cyberbullying, whether it’s by leaving a nasty comment on someone’s Facebook page or YouTube video or anything else like that, will always come back to bite you on the arse. Here, this is put into practise in the most extreme ways possible, hence the more gory ways of axing off its characters which involve, of all things, a blender and some choice items of weaponry, making the message all the more powerful and effective. Chances are that this film won’t entirely resonate with viewers to a point where people start looking at cyberbullying in a whole new light, but it’s still very entertaining in how it gets its message across. At times, you start to wonder if “Laura” is who you want to be behind, with her wicked sense of humour all conveyed by Skype or Facebook messaging, because although “she” is technically the villain of the piece she’s also technically right, more so than the actual people in this movie.

Some things about it don’t add up, such as how exactly is this thing forcing them to off each other and how one character doesn’t seem to know what a troll is (that’s right, a TEENAGER in the YouTube age doesn’t know what that is) or even the game “Never Have I Ever” which the entity forces them to play with gruesome results. The ending, without giving anything away, doesn’t seem especially needed once the message is well and truly established, but as a nice fun way to close the movie it’s tolerable.

In the end, Unfriended is a typical teen slasher movie – but it’s done in an interesting way with a fascinating subtext and commentary that it actually resonates higher than most typical films of the horror sub-genre. Now THAT is absolutely terrifying.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Unfriended is a surprisingly entertaining and clever social commentary on the effects and consequences of cyberbullying, and what it lacks in originality it makes up for with its effective message and how it conveys it to its tech-addicted modern audience. We “like” it a lot.