Only mildly suffering from typical horror tropes, Unfriended successfully brings the genre to it’s most modern form yet.
It’s unfortunate that mainstream horror films typically fall flat. While we’ve had a few more in recent years, like The Conjouring and Sinister, those are rare in the midst of duds like The Quiet Ones, Ouija, and the newer Paranormal Activity films. Indie horror on the other hand has provided some wonderful scares, with The Babadook considered one of the best films of 2014, and this years It Follows already amassing a fan base, garnering it’s limited release to be expanded wide. Thankfully Unfriended falls into the stronger end of the spectrum, combining classic horror thrills with a unique, and modern approach to filmmaking.
Unfriended tells the tale of five friends as they connect together via a Skype call. They quickly realize someone, or something, else is taking part in their video chat, and some of the group begin receiving weird messages from a former classmate who had committed suicide exactly one year prior. Naturally this odd occurrence soon becomes terrifying, as the mysterious person begins to reveal dark secrets of the group, forcing them to come clean or face the consequences.
The unique element of Unfriended comes with it’s execution. The film starts on a first-person view of an Mac desktop, and never breaks that view. You see the interactions of this character, Blaire (Shelley Hennig) from start to finish. You see her browse Facebook while she chats, you see her message her boyfriend, and of course, you see her face and the faces of the group via the Skype video call. At first it’s a little odd, and admittedly slow, but it soon become captivating to watch a single person’s level of fear elevate, as she messages friends and google paranormal occurrences, trying to find an answer to what is happening, or at the very least, a way out of it.
The technical delivery of the screen is very solid. With the exception of an unnecessary motion blur on the mouse cursor, it all looks very much like an Apple computer desktop, and the licenses are all in place for Facebook, Skype, iMessage, Spotify, and all the other services used. No generic social media or computer elements are thrown in here. The use of calls breaking up or abruptly ending work well, as does the randomly closing of windows and playing of music. While much of it is typical jump scares, the creative use of technology to cause everything feels fairly fresh.
The cast is serviceable, with none being terrible, but most providing a standard high school stereotype, and overacting to fit in nicely with a horror flick.
The only downfall I can credit to the film is it’s length. Once it gets moving, the pacing is great, and kept me engaged, but the opening is fairly slow and drawn out. Considering the film is only 80 minutes, the first chunk feels a little wasted. I would’ve rather seen a swifter kick into the action, and used that extra time for a 6th character to be included.
If you’ve seen the trailers for Unfriended, or have honestly seen any other teen horror flick, you kind of know what you’re in for. Outside of it’s modern approach, nothing that happened truly surprised me, but I still had a great time in the theater. If you can go while it’s still crowded, do it. It’s worth hearing the split crowd of screams and laughter.