Director: Leo Gabriadze
Cast: Heather Sossaman, Matthew Bohrer and Courtney Halverson
Running Team: 83 minutes
Release Date: May 1st
We’re so used to being saturated with sub-par horror movies that when a good one arrives – The Babadook, It Follows – we almost lose the run of ourselves. While it’s great for a scarer to come along and tilt the genre off its axis, sometimes it’s great just to get a scary movie that’s properly entertaining without being of a lowest common denominator intelligence. Truth be told, Unfriended shouldn’t really work, as the found footage sub-genre has just about run out of defenders, and tossed into the mix are a bunch of mostly unlikeable sassy teenagers and every social media medium they have at their disposal. The fact that it not only works but works extremely well should come as a surprise to every fan of horror.
Kicking off with some disturbing footage of teenager Laura (Heather Sossaman) committing suicide after an embarrassing video of her was posted online, we’re soon introduced to a group of friends – the virgin one, the angry jock one, the promiscuous one, the fat nerdy one, etc., nobody immediately breaking the mould of the genre-defined characters – as they’re having a run of the mill Skype conversation. The entire movie is played from Blaire’s (Shelley Hennig) laptop, as she updates Facebook, watches YouTube videos, private IMs her boyfriend Matt (Matthew Bohrer), listens to songs on Spotify… until they all notice that there’s an uninvited person in their Skype group chat, who claims to be Laura.
An interesting take on the found footage format as well as a very modern take on the well-worn vengeful ghost (in the machine) story, Unfriended uses the technology to its advantage; never has the spinning beach ball of death on a Mac been more terrifying. As Laura begins to pick them off one by one, she sets them all tasks to ensure they’re not the next one to die, causing the close friends to quickly turn on each other, each aware of an ever dwindling loading bar between deaths.
As the tension and scares begin to mount frantically, Unfriended also reveals a bitterly dark comedic side, as the snarky ghost of Laura sets up a self-destructive game of Never Have I Ever and she proves to be as pointed with a well-timed putdown in death as she ever was in life. On top of that, there’s the none-too-subtle take on cyber-bullying, reminded teenagers that “what you put on here stays here forever”, and that every action you have in this Internet-heavy age will have consequences ten, fifty, a hundred times bigger that you could possibly imagine at the time of uploading.
Not the kind of horror movie you’ll be buying on DVD to lend to and psychologically scar your friends and family for years to come, instead this is perfect Friday night out entertainment. A smart twist on a threadbare horror trope, some great scares, sometimes enjoyably darkly funny and much, MUCH better than it has any right to be.