Director: Leo Gabriadze
Starring: Shelley Hennig, Matthew Bohrer, Moses Storm, Renee Olstead, Will Peltz, Courtney Halverson
Written by: Nelson Greaves
Running Time: 83 mins
Release date: 1st May 2015
Going into Unfriended, I thought, here we go another gimmicky horror film that will probably have very little scares and characters you would care about. I have to hand it to the film makers, for this is not what I expected. This is a clever, sometimes savvy horror that while not entirely original still manages to do something very different to make it interesting.
Laura Barns committed suicide after a drunken video of her was sent out anonymously on You Tube. On the anniversary of her death, six of her friends have their regular meet-up on Skype when they are joined by a stranger. Unable to delete them or lose them from their group site, things start to get ugly when this unwanted individual reveals themselves to be their dead friend, Laura.
There’s nothing unique about the stalker horror mixed with the anniversary revenge (see Halloween et al). Yet director Leo Gabriadze has cleverly concocted something that is relevant to modern society, in particular the teen market, by having the whole film played out on someone’s computer. What we are watching is one of the protagonist, Blaire, as she goggles, Skype, Facebook’s etc.
What Gabriadze then does is have the friends all on Skype and have the evenings terror played out as if in real-time, so we watch the characters interacting with each other until one by one, the unwanted intruder does their deadly deeds, making them confess to their secrets and their sins. So even if you find this group annoying and, on occasions, deafeningly loud, you have to admire what they have done to give the genre a twist.
Like The Blair Witch Project, which really introduced the world to the “found footage” horror, this has taken the computer world and used it to shock and often surprise. These are real sites that we are watching, as the arrow rushes around the screen, clicking madly on links and apps. There will be some who will find all of this aggravating yet it speaks volumes about teenagers in the 21st Century than most other films.
You might say to yourself, if someone is trolling you and you can’t stop them, just switch the computer off. Impossible because, as you might know, the computer has an almost hypnotic effect. So when the group are sent a link and the others are screaming “don’t open it!” you know that it will be opened. Cyberbullying is a nasty thing to be the victim of, yet even if it does happen, there’s a fascination about seeing what happens next.
As for the scares, when they come, they do the job effectively. Because we are watching little squares with faces in them, you cannot see what’s behind them, or there might be interference and glitches. All of these help to build enough tension that even the slightest noise sends you screaming. Yes, this works well.
It might not be the greatest horror of all time and there is still plenty of room to improve but as a one-off, it does the job it sets out to do as well as give us a very telling insight into modern kids. Unfriended is a far better film than it has any right to be and while it’s no Babadook, it’s a far better bet than most recent Hollywood horrors.