Review - Unfriended
By midlandsmovies, Sep 2 2015 03:00PM
Unfriended (2015) Dir. Levan Gabriadze
Unfriended is produced by Timur Bekmambetov who is known for attempting to push the envelope of what could be just boring blockbusters from his breakthrough Day/Night Watch, the guilty pleasures of Wanted and the schlock concept Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. This new release is a witty teen horror/thriller which casts its virtual eye over cyberbullying, revenge and modern technology with a unique take on the genre.
We have to start with the style which defines the narrative so much it cannot be ignored. The film is simply the computer screen of one of the protagonists and we see her cursor and mouse as she chats to her friends online via video calls on Skype. This interesting conceit taps into teens’ over-reliance on modern technology as the friends interact with various media apps but in this film it has very dire consequences.
As well as virtual chats, the lead character is shown to search for info using Google, read posts on forums, listen to music on Spotify and watch footage on YouTube. These take the place of cuts, backstory and are a creatively interesting way of giving the audience more information.
With the structure set up (one many young people could relate to no doubt) the rather simple story is filled with horror clichés as an unknown user takes control of a bullied teen’s Facebook account after she has taken her own life and also anonymously joins their group chats. One by one, the group’s secrets are revealed and conflict occurs both with the regular adolescent problems of gossip, hearsay and s*x as well as with the person that has infiltrated their computers. Is it simply a virus? Is it someone pretending to be the dead girl? Is it a ghostly revenge story?
Well, from instant messaging to the creepy emails, the film uses genre tropes in a distinct manner but the concept is consistently the most fascinating aspect of the movie. Clocking in around 90 minutes, I doubt the film could hold an audience longer as I felt like I was looking over the shoulder of a co-worker at times, it isn’t the most riveting story. At times anyone savvy with computers may find that there are periods when you wish they’d type faster or the story beats move quicker. During one point, the entire group seem to be just waiting for something to happen like a bad webinar conference call.
It has to be said the film really isn’t that scary and although the acting was solid teen fare, the biggest negative was the plot itself. Teen revenge and bullying has moved online but the story of something happening “last Summer” and the stereotypical teens being stalked by persons unknown is hardly new.
Aside from the remarkable technique then sadly the film is just a bit hollow. If you’re not into web-based media like YouTube and messaging then avoid this like the plague and there’s only so much tension that can be rung out of a kid at a desk. It’s an interesting experiment that fails to avoid the many clichés of the genre BUT the idea is more than solid and slasher films have got a much needed 21st century shot (or should that be slice) to the arm.
Midlands Movies Mike