There have been some good—and even great—horror movies released within the last couple of years.
Unfriended, the latest entry in the tired found-footage subgenre, is not one of them.
This is an entire film in which you watch somebody’s computer screen, on which a bunch of obnoxious teens are Skyping one another. A ghost-like presence inexplicably enters the conversation and knocks off the kids, one by one, while they scream and plead for mercy. They, of course, never go out of frame for too long, and always manage to take a camera with them, no matter how much their lives are in danger.
The chat starts with Blaire (Shelley Hennig) and Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm), a boyfriend and girlfriend talking about the dirty things they will do on prom night. A bunch of their friends then rudely join the chat party, and they all goof on each other—and wonder who the unidentified person is who has mysteriously joined the chat.
Turns out the chat is taking place on the one-year anniversary of their friend Laura’s suicide. Laura (Heather Sossaman) couldn’t stand the public ridicule she was enduring after somebody posted a video of her passed out and crapping her pants at a party. Now it appears Laura, or somebody pretending to be Laura by using her social-networking accounts, is out for revenge.
Like the mostly lousy Paranormal Activity movies before it, Unfriended is one of those movies that make you wait … and wait … and wait. When something does finally happen—like one of the kids putting his hand in a blender, because the malevolent force made him do it—it’s most definitely not worth the wait. I found myself laughing more than cringing.
For 82 minutes, we watch Blaire’s home screen as she uses Skype, Facebook, YouTube, research sites, etc. Some might see this film as a cinematic time capsule, as well as a commentary on our addiction to the Internet and its social pitfalls. I see it as really, really lazy.
Still, the setup could’ve allowed for a good scare or two. As in The Blair Witch Project before it, the director doesn’t allow us to ever see who is causing the mayhem. The teens knock themselves off because a ghost is possessing them, or some nonsense like that. I was waiting for a ghost to show up, but it never happens. You just get teens screaming, “No, don’t do that!” and, “No, I didn’t do that!” and “Show me your boobs!” The screaming gets to the point where it is utterly annoying.
Yeah, cyber-bullying is a real thing, and Unfriended is trying to tell today’s youth that it’s a bad idea to post pictures of a friend taking a shit. Cyber bullying is bad, people. Bad. It’s also, it turns out, a very boring and gimmicky subject for a horror film.
Unfortunately, Unfriended is probably going to spawn sequels in which other social networks play a more prominent part. Spotify is just a supporting player in this one, but I can see a sequel in which a bunch of friends have to listen to an 80-minute Spotify playlist, and each song gives a hint as to how somebody will die. Or how about a Words With Friends death match? The possibilities are endless … and vigorously lame.
If you like horror, watch The Babadook or It Follows. Those films have real narratives in which the protagonists actually leave the house, and there are real cinematographers and editors involved.
If you have strong urge to see Unfriended, just Skype a couple of your friends, call them some bad names, and stare at them while they yell at you for 82 minutes. It’s basically the same thing, and would probably be far more entertaining.
Unfriended is playing at theaters across the valley.