Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 22 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Violent Content, Pervasive Language, some Sexuality, and Drug and Alcohol Use -all involving Teens
Directed by: Levan Gabriadze
Written by: Nelson Greaves
Starring: Shelley Hennig, Renee Olstead, Courtney Halverson, Jacob Wysocki, Will Peltz, Moses Jacob Storm & Heather Sossaman
Though its advertising itself as a new genre of horror, UNFRIENDED is actually the third scary movie in the space of a year to be told entirely through a computer screen. The first was the disturbing DEN and the second was the silly OPEN WINDOWS. UNFRIENDED stands head and shoulders higher as the best found footage film of this type to come out yet. With solid writing backing its story and making clever use of every bit of the unique style, UNFRIENDED is a highly enjoyable supernatural cautionary tale about the ghostly aftermath of a vicious case of cyberbullying.
Blaire Lily has signed onto a Skype call with her friends. They plan on joking, chatting and have some casual fun on the interwebs. However, tonight is not like any other night. One year ago, a girl named Laura Barns committed suicide after a humiliating video was posted to YouTube and the constant bullying drove her off the edge. When an anonymous user joins Blaire’s Skype call from Laura’s account, it becomes apparent that someone is toying with this group of unsuspecting teens. Unfortunately for them, this isn’t simply a routine hacker or online troll…but something far more sinister and deadly. The Skype call quickly morphs into a nightmare as the anonymous user demands retribution for Laura’s death.
In all honesty, UNFRIENDED is sold on a gimmick that its being told from the point of view of a Skype call. That could be seen as cheap and stupid by a lot of people, but works extremely well in the context of this film. The script makes use of various internet sites and programs in order to further develop the plot. There’s definitely a wicked sense of humor present as a few deliberate jabs got me laughing (a couple of soundtrack choices become hilarious later on). To make matters even better, UNFRIENDED doesn’t get straight to the scares. There’s an honest to God effort put in to the character build-up of these teenagers. They’re not just hapless victims, but come off as real friends with chemistry…and that makes later revelations so much more fun. Recent found footage horror films haven’t really done much service to the audience in terms of character development. This is a difficult aspect to pull of given the handheld format of these films themselves. Through small details and little touches, UNFRIENDED manages to carve out convincing teenage characters.
It’s not as if this movie is perfect though. I can imagine this frightening a lot of younger moviegoers, but I was never really that scared. There’s nice slow-building tension, but it never got into insanely terrifying territory for me. That being said, I was beyond satisfied with this film. There was care and effort put into what might possibly have wound up being the most unbearably annoying horror film in quite some time if it were in any other hands. I had a blast and was entertained the whole way through. The ending is slightly predictable (I called it well in advance), but there are only so few notes that this film could have concluded on. There’s also some well-deserved praise in delivering a horror movie with a message that didn’t feel cheesy or forced at all.
While I never found myself terrified or fully creeped out, I truly enjoyed UNFRIENDED. I imagine that a lot of skeptical horror fans who walk in expecting this to suck will find themselves pleasantly surprised by the end. Running at a brief 80 minutes, the film never wears out its welcome and feels perfectly paced. There’s nice slow build up in the beginning before the eerie happenings launch into full force. There’s creativity out the wazoo in just how this entire story is told. Some parts are familiar (the ending and a would-be surprise revelation), but UNFRIENDED is the best wide release horror film to come out since OCULUS. UNFRIENDED is a ton of spooky fun!