Synopsis: A group of online chat room friends find themselves haunted by a mysterious, supernatural force using the account of their dead friend.
Release Date: April 17, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Horror, Thriller
When it comes to found footage horror movies, many fans think that they have seen it all. Those people haven’t seen Unfriended.
Unfriended is about a young girl named Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman from 10.0 Earthquake) who committed suicide after being cyber-bullied. Actually, Unfriended is about a group of Laura’s friends who are chatting on a Skype group call on the one year anniversary of Laura’s death when a stranger shows up on their screen. Or, at first they think it’s a stranger. As the conversation goes on, each of the kids starts getting private messages from Laura saying that she is listening to their conversation. Soon, Laura starts to play games with the kids, getting them each to reveal secrets about themselves and about each other. Eventually, one by one, the kids start to become possessed and attempt suicide, all while on the call with the rest of the group.
The writing for Unfriended is credited to Nelson Greaves (“Sleepy Hollow”), but while watching, the audience gets the feeling that much of it is improvised by the cast. This is a good thing; it helps turn the routine story about possession and revenge into an authentic exhibition of teenage cattiness and interaction. The plot is nothing new, but the hip cast, which is mostly made up of virtual unknowns, is able to inject some life into it and keep it tense and suspenseful, even if all of their screaming and shouting starts to get annoying at times. Basically, Unfriended is a compelling story that has been told before, only in a way that hasn’t.
While the story itself is captivating, the most interesting thing about Unfriended is how it is told. The tale unfolds in real time with the audience watching the computer desktop of one of the chat participants – Laura’s best friend, Blaire (Shelley Hennig from Ouija). The film was shot with all of the actors in different rooms of the same house, all logged into a closed Skype interface. After attempting to shoot the film in ten minute increments, director Leo Gabriadze (Lucky Trouble) decided to have the actors run through the entire film in one take, and the technique works wonderfully, with the actors reacting to each other and making material up on the fly. It’s a great way to turn a typical teenage horror film into a tense exercise in suspense.
Unfriended is not a perfect film. The action is redundant. The story is derivative. It’s not even very scary. It’s mostly a gimmicky way to present a teenage campfire tale. But it’s a great gimmick, and that helps sell the whole movie. Despite the lack of chills, it’s still an interesting flick.
As effective as Unfriended is at telling its story, the movie is not incredibly scary. There are a handful of technological devices that provide some nice suspense, things like frozen Skype images and slow file load times that make great symbolic ticking clocks, but there’s not a lot of payoff to them. A couple of sequences in the film provide some cringe-worthy moments, but the video-call quality picture combined with the Quicktime Movie-sized windows make what’s going on onscreen more morbid curiosity than actual fear-inducing imagery. As a ghost story, Unfriended has the potential to be very scary, but it would have to be told in a more traditional way. The scariness is sacrificed by the creative method of telling the story.
One thing that can’t be taken away from Unfriended is its uniqueness. For better or worse, it’s safe to say that audiences will have never seen anything quite like it. Setting the entire film on the desktop of a single computer is an ingenious way of telling a story about a group of kids in a chatroom, and the audience is privy to everything that Blaire is doing, whether it’s messaging her boyfriend, checking her Facebook page, watching a YouTube video, or changing the song on Spotify. The audience essentially becomes a fly-on-the-wall of the hi-tech conversation. As a movie, it will probably look dated in a few years because of changing technologies, but in a cinematic climate full of shaky-cam found footage movies and CGI-laced faux documentaries, Unfriended has found a way to use the “this really happened” gimmick in a way that hasn’t been done before, and the film deserves a lot of credit for that.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Levan Gabriadze
- Producer(s): Timur BekmambetovNelson Greaves
- Screenwriter(s): Nelson Greaves
- Cast: Heather SossamanShelley HennigCourtney Halverson Moses Jacob StormJacob WysockiWill PeltzRenee Olstead
- Editor(s): Parker Laramie
- Cinematographer: Adam Sidman
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Veronika Belenikina
- Casting Director(s): John McAlary
- Music Score:
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA