‘Unfriended’ is the third horror film that I have reviewed in the past couple of months, despite me saying I’m not a fan of the genre. So it’s probably about time I just accepted that I do enjoy the occasional scary flick. I say ‘Unfriended’ is the third horror film I’ve reviewed, but that may be a bit of a stretch. This film looked like it had the potential to reinvent the genre, but it fell flat on its face after never really finding its feet.
‘Unfriended’ follows the story of a group of six friends, whose daily Skype sessions takes a decided turn for the worse when an anonymous account appears and begins threatening them. When they are unable to hang up on this devil in the system, it systematically targets each of them to avenge the death of Laura Barns. Laura Barns is a suicide victim, who took her own life after a distasteful video of her went viral online. The video was recorded and uploaded by one of the six friends, and the spirit will stop at nothing to find out who it was and bring about posthumous justice for Laura.
This is a film that I was quite interested in seeing. As I said previously, we could have had a new sub-genre on our hands, this could have been a film to create something that was relevant to modern day audiences. We’ve seen the Victorian era haunted house a hundred times before, so this was a neat idea that could have modernised horror and made it relatable. The whole film is framed as a screen share of the laptop belonging to protagonist, Blaire (Shelley Hennig). She quickly flicks between various social media apps, and at times I felt like there was too much going on, it was too busy. Having to concentrate hard on what she was typing to other characters, at the same time as watching a YouTube video and listening to what the other characters were saying, all whilst Spotify unexpectedly started to play was just not my idea of a good cinema experience. For me, it was all a little chaotic, and maybe that’s why the panic and fear never set in. I was trying so hard to keep up with what was happening that the intricacies of the demon’s wicked little game evaded me completely.
As far as acting goes, I think the less said the better. Shelley Hennig is probably the only actor or actress to leave this project with her head held high. The other characters are so stereotypically typecast, it’s laughable. Add to this, the fact that none of them are particularly likable and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. I would go as far to say, that in some cases I couldn’t wait for the inevitable killing off, because they were infuriating me that much. Not that I condone such drastic measures in the real world. At points, every single one of the characters was screaming at the top of their lungs, trying to relay things to each other, and I had no idea what was being said, who was saying it and who they were screaming information at. There’s actually a five-minute passage in the middle of the film, where I’m not sure I actually picked up a single piece of dialogue.
I feel like when this film was given the green light, it was a really new and inventive project and it certainly had potential, but to turn this exciting idea into a terrifying spectacle for the big screen was a step too far. There was not a single moment in the film that I truly felt scared or threatened. I think that shooting the whole thing within a laptop screen didn’t help in that respect at all. I felt distanced, and for a film to be truly terrifying, you have to feel like you’re in the thick of the action. That didn’t happen. And as a result, what we are left with is a messy product, lacking anything particularly positive to take away from it. An avant-garde idea that could have been revolutionary, but instead ‘Unfriended’ will be thrown onto the growing pile of horror films that have to go down as a real disappointment.
DIRECTOR: LEVAN GABRIADZE
STARRING: HEATHER SOSSAMAN, MATTHEW BOHRER, COURTNEY HALVERSON, SHELLEY HENNIG