Night #8: Unfriended (2014)

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Directed By: Levan Gabriadze

Please, Laura we are not bad people… we are good people.

Technology so rarely plays a part in modern horror. Typically a ghost story is a ghost story or a slasher movie is a slasher movie. If anything there’s usually a contrived reason to distance themselves from technology and when they do embrace it then it’s usually in the worst way.

Unfolding in real time, Unfriended embraces the conceit to take place on one computer screen and entirely through Skype video calls as a group of teens have to deal with the ramifications of their past mistakes.

Obstensibly, there’s nothing new about what Unfriended is doing. Countless slasher movies, for example, use the idea that a past transgression comes back to haunt a group of friends and in this case, it’s the cyberbullying and suicide of a girl named Laura who returns one year later to bring old sins to light. Suffice to say that all of Laura’s former friends (using that term loosely) have sins of their own and she’s intent on bringing them to light. If they don’t play along, then they’re goaded into their own gruesome suicides.

To be honest I didn’t expect a lot going into this, probably because I had bad memories of Friend Request, but it managed to greatly exceed my expectations. First and foremost the movie wouldn’t work if the gimmick didn’t work but thankfully it uses it to its great advantage. If you’re reading this on a laptop or computer right now then chances are you had a few browser windows open, maybe you have Spotify or iTunes running as well, maybe your screen is a mess of pictures and apps and files organised in a haphazard fashion. It’s that attention to detail that keeps it familiar and the familiar is the best way to connect with an audience.

The performances across the board are good too, even if the young cast aren’t asked to do anything more than coming across increasingly panicked. Doing it in isolation though and presumably, without the other actors to bounce off makes the task that much harder. No one is going to win any awards but they are believable and that’s all that matters.

If I have a complaint it’s that before each member of the cast is offed we get a buffering signal before brief snatches of their deaths. I’m sure the idea is to build up the tension but it doesn’t entirely work and instead had me wondering why people had such bad internet connections. I wouldn’t really mention it if it wasn’t for the fact that the movie does it so often but if that’s my biggest complaint (With one exception) then speaks highly of the rest of the movie.

My last complaint is the final few seconds, which insist on ending the movie on a jump scare because that’s what so many horror filmmakers like to do, even when it’s completely unneccesary. It isn’t enough to spoil what comes before it by any means, but I wish some of these movies just had the confidence to end instead of thinking they need to shock you one more time. This isn’t world-changing and it’s not going to offer anything that might alter your perspective on life, but then that doesn’t matter. That doesn’t stop the movie from doing what it’s trying to do well and exceeding its own gimmick.

 

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