Over the years, movies have tried to capture the online experience. The problem is that a bunch of people sitting in front of a computer screen rarely makes for interesting viewing. Which is a pity, as the entire premise of Unfriended revolves around someone browsing Skype, Facebook, Google and YouTube. The entire movie takes place on a single laptop screen; the lead characters talk to each other on Skype, all the flashbacks are framed as YouTube videos, and so on. It’s an interesting variant on found footage and one that’s likely to impress the casual viewer.
The plot may be a little bit too familiar to fans of ultra-low budget movies. A bunch of friends ganged up on the school bully and their over enthusiastic shenanigans ended in that person’s death. The movie is set exactly a year after all this has happened and opens with us seeing someone looking at the unfortunate incident on YouTube. As the story progresses, the rest of the cast Skype in, then a mysterious extra person joins in on the chat. One that claims to be a vengeful ghost.
Though the ‘online chat’ gimmick is nice, it quickly becomes obvious that this is a cost-saving device rather than anything to do with storytelling. If this was an alternate reality game or a web series then this would be charming, but because the movie isn’t natively digital the whole thing feels forced and false.
The acting is at the same level of quality that you would expect from the likes of Ouija or Paranormal Activity, and a lot of the energy of the piece comes from the cast screaming. You do get the feeling that if only someone stopped and had a cup of tea everything would turn out all right. Alas, much of the horror comes from jump scares and yelling. After a while this becomes a little predictable. Unfriended is a great idea poorly executed, but if you’re still hungry for found footage features then you should check it out.
UNFRIENDED / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: LEVAN GABRIADZE / SCREENPLAY: NELSON GRAVES / STARRING: HEATHER SOSSAMAN, SHELLEY HENNIG, WILL PELTZ, MATTHEW BOHRER, COURTNEY HALVERSON / RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 24TH (DIGITAL), SEPTEMBER 7TH (DVD, BLU-RAY)