“Unfriended” is a 2015 American found-footage horror movie directed by Levan Gabriadze. It tells the tale of six high school students who encounter the ghost of their classmate, Laura Barns, on the Internet. When the group starts a Skype call and a mysterious user, billie227, attaches itself to the conversation, things begin to go awry as the anonymous user begins to reveal all of their deepest, darkest secrets. What ensues is an emotional rollercoaster filled with fear, betrayal and deceit. “Unfriended” defies all expectations — instead of being the generic, gimmicky horror film we all expect it to be, audiences get a unique film filled with great acting and tension.
We all expected for “Unfriended” to be your typical teen slasher, something that could be as great as “Scream” or as bad as “I Know What You Did Last Summer”: A film filled with hedonistic teens, who all get what they deserve, being killed one by one by someone who had been wronged or known the victim. In a world where teenagers have seen all that horror films have to offer, the biggest question is: How does one scare a generation that’s practically desensitized to everything? “Unfriended” tackles the incredibly difficult challenge of scaring teens of the 21st century.
This film has been dubbed “a horror movie for the social media generation,” meaning that if you’re too old to use social media, this film is not for you. Most films that try to focus on technology, more specifically social media, tend to get hung up on what’s cool and end up oversaturating their movies with memes or pop culture references that make said films cringeworthy at best. “Unfriended” expects the audience to know the medium. This is a double-edged sword because if you’re young you get it, but if you’re a part of an older generation you won’t know what’s going on half the time.
The film aims its focus at our obsession with technology. It is a combination of video media sites like YouTube and LiveLeak, social media like Facebook and Skype, scary online urban legends and our fear of hackers. This is incredibly effective because technology is something we have all come to know and love so well. Technology is our way of establishing control of the world around us, but when the things we create start to either take a mind of their own or not work the way we command them to we once again feel weak and powerless.
All of this is amplified by incredible acting. The film only takes place on a computer screen. But you wouldn’t really get that from actually watching the film. The performances are captivating and keep you from being bored of staring at a computer screen for 90 minutes. And the film goes from being a simple revenge film to one about betrayal. The characters begin to turn on themselves and truly turn into monsters by the end of the film. From an intense game of “Never Have I Ever,” in which the loser’s life is on the line, to leaked private sex videos and screenshots of teens performing dastardly deeds, the tension between characters is thick and intense and is the true driving force of the film.
This film is intended for those who spend too much of their time on social media. People who have never heard of, may have lives outside of or know too much about the Internet may find the film to be laughable, hard to follow and gimmicky because they can see past its initial appeal. But, for those of us who can get the references made in the film and accept “Unfriended” for what it is, a horror film for the social media generation, it’s a fun and enjoyable emotional rollercoaster driven by capable actors.
Rating: 3.5 stars