By Darin Skaggs
The internet is an amazing man made tool. You can look up any bit of information like how to bake a certain kind of cookie, who wrote what book or connect with long lost friends. It is a useful invention for any situation. It could also be a total distraction and used as a device to get out thoughts and feelings that would be viewed as dishonorable behavior if used in public fashion. In Unfriended Levan Gabiadze and crew create an unique, effective horror film that also explores all of those aspects.
Unfriended takes place on the year anniversary that Laura Barnes killed herself. We learn it was all filmed as Blair (Shelley Henning) looks up the video along with many others along with articles relating to the matter. She is interrupted by a Skype call from her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Storm). They have a few words about the excitement that will happen after their prom night and are interrupted by their other friends Adam (Will Peltz), Jess (Renee Olstead) and Ken (Jacob Wysocki). There is also a mysterious other who has joined the Skype call. After several tries to get rid of the unknown Skype caller the friends slowly realize it might just be the ghostly figure of their now deceased friend, Laura, who has come back for revenge.
This is certainly a gimmick film. The whole film takes place on Blair’s computer screen. We see every search she makes, her private messages to Mitch and the messages she types but decides not to send. This definitely makes it worthwhile, even could be a great horror film because of it. We don’t really get to know the other characters, not even Mitch, but the film is not theirs, it is Blair’s and Laura’s. We know Blair cares about her friends to a certain extent, so when they are killed off you care because she does. It also understands today’s young people and their daily technological habits. Blair has so many tabs open at the same time. Videos she was recently watching, Facebook and a random recipe site. She, like most young people succeeded in the art of multitasking. Also moments like when the police find one of the friends on the ground the kids let Blair search for police codes that are being spat out. It shows the lack of patience that recent generations have acquired and their need to know what is happening at all times. With the miracle of the internet that is all now a possibility.
Another brilliant aspect is that Blair is not speaking to her dead friend on some phony, movieland site. It is actually Skype they are on, she is using the Facebook brand and she is watching videos on YouTube instead of some knock off video service. The crew actually put the real brands in the film so we were not taken out of the story. This helps the blow of the sheer ridiculousness of the deaths in the film. The first girl to die is effective. The other friend’s deaths are not as effective and downright silly especially the kid with the blender. The great part of all of them is Laura, who seems to have full power to control the internet like not being able to close or pause a disturbing video or making the Skype call freeze right when a friend becomes in danger of themselves. Anyone who has used Skype or something like it knows it will freeze from time to time. Laura with her sick jokes decides she is going to freeze it at the initial moments of the suicides and let the friends view only a few seconds of their grizzly death.
The total silliness of the deaths takes away from the look into cyberbullying. The group all had something to do that lead to the public suicide of Laura Burns. There is a deadly game of “Never Have I Ever” lead by Laura that turns the group against each other. We learn that they are all not the greatest of friends to each other and Laura makes sure they remember that they were the main contributors to the cyberbullying. The film is too campy to make a real point on the topic, but it is clearly against it. Again people here die in too crazy of ways to be relatable to the horrors of cyberbullying, but it is good that a movie is made to reject the evils of terrorizing someone on the internet.
Unfriended is not a perfect horror film, but it does give a sense of tenseness and dread. The deaths are not scary, mostly silly, but because of the great acting by all, they are emotionally devastating.