A movie trying so hard to be ‘with it’ and modern that it fails at the one important part of a horror movie… Actually scaring it’s audience. Unfriended could have easily been a horrifying movie with an interesting premise had it been done right. Instead, I was left laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of its plot, acting and terrible follow through. With a run time of only 1 hour and 23 minutes, you’ll wonder just how long it takes for all of the friends to finally die.
About: The premise of Unfriended is pretty straight forward. Laura Barns one year prior, committed suicide due to cyber bullying after someone uploaded a video of her completely wasted (drunk) at a party and then passed out later. The cyber bullying was so bad, in fact, that most of the people on Youtube commented that she should kill herself. Which, she does, with a gun in broad daylight which was also filmed. She just can’t catch a break! On the anniversary, friends that knew her are talking to each other on Skype, Blaire Lily being the vantage point we follow, when they start noticing unusual occurrences leading to what could be a haunting via the computer… The whole time, in fact, we only see the goings on through the computer screen.
WARNING! Potential spoilers ahead!
The Plot/Characters: Honestly, the plot is very very slow to progress. The beginning lays down the groundwork of the premise, showing Blaire researching Laura Barns’ death which is pretty easy cop out to explain the backstory. But, regardless, the actual movie seems to flounder in the first act. It tries to be sexy with an undressing scene and funny when the friends join the chat and make fun of Blaire and her boyfriend, but it falls flat. There are long pauses between the friend’s conversations at the beginning, giving Blaire enough time to start a separate chat between her and Mitch, or do some slow, painstakingly long research on her computer which mostly involves her misspelling or retyping dialogue as she reconsiders it making you wonder what the heck her friends are doing in the meantime. The dynamic between the members seems forced and the actors unsure of their motivations to join the conversation. In fact, some of the dialogue between the group is so bad that it’s laughable.
Finally, things start heating up when someone seemingly hacks Laura’s account and begins messaging her friends. Someone also hacks into Skype and begins to threaten the group. After attempting to get rid of the user and failing miserably, they discover that it is also Laura’s account. Blaire finds out that there are instances of others being haunted through the computer via her boyfriend Mitch, but by then she has already answered Laura’s facebook message. Things begin to slowly escalate and become more than just a case of their computers being hacked or someone screwing around when the friends began to be picked off one by one… The real unusual aspect of this movie is that the entire time, we are only seeing what is happening via Blaire’s computer screen. Prepare to constantly feel that someone is attempting to call you via Skype. You slowly learn that all of the characters in the movie have some reason for you to hate them as the ghost has them play a very popular game called “Never Have I Ever” revealing lies, deceits and downright bad things that each person has done. In my opinion, this only serves to make you have less and less empathy toward them all, as they show that none of them have any redeeming qualities whatsoever. Overall, the plot moves slowly, is slowed down further by long exposition via chat texting and builds up only in the final act toward a cheap twist that was easily seen from a mile away.
Scares/The Monster: Not seeing the actual ghost for the majority of the movie could be a great thing. In fact, nine times out of ten, not seeing something is worse than knowing the threat lurking in the shadows. But, it’s kind of the opposite here. Instead, while you don’t SEE the ghost, the ghost is constantly present. Laura Barns appears, begins messaging all of the members, begins Skyping them all and has a voice in text if not in actual voice or body. This actually, to me, serves to make the threat less scary. She’s clearly Laura Barns and we establish this pretty early on so there is no “could this be someone else messing with the group” feeling, or at least, it doesn’t last for long when one of the members suggests they all hold their hands up to show that it’s not them. While the idea of having a threat off camera and when someone logs off, you aren’t sure what is going on is interesting but when the first member is picked off by the ghost, the scene is so poorly constructed that it ends up just being funny. I felt a tad bad for laughing as Ken had his entire arm shoved into a blender but the over dramatic acting, the fact that someone had to move the computer in order to get it in the shot and the horrible webcam footage just serve to make it less and less believable. Overall, the attempts at scares were lights randomly turning off and on or members being picked off in ways that weren’t clearly visible which only made the scenes less impactful. The final jumpscare is also not jarring as much as it is cheap as it decides to have Blaire finally turn off her computer and has to show the ghost as it attacks.
The Score and Atmosphere: Lacking a strong OST, this movie relies more on “classic” scary sounding music to deliver the underlying tone. It’s nothing special and doesn’t really serve to bring up any dread. The constantly Skype dings and the random changes in background music that Blaire choose also break up the tone of the movie too much for the music to really have a strong impact. At one point the ghost actually picks an ironic song, which just ended up making me laugh. The atmosphere is also lacking since the actors are forced to act out everything in a small screen that is already low quality since webcams are used, stripping away any sense of atmosphere. It does attempt to startle you with changes in lighting and mood via their surroundings but since you feel you are on the other side of the computer, you kind of feel safe from all of that.
Overall: The slow build up and the dead silence in between conversations of this movie give the viewer enough time to start asking questions like “why did the ghost wait a full year before attacking her friends that caused her to commit suicide?” “why are these friends such horrible people to each other and how on Earth have they remained friends?” “why are ghosts stalking people on the internet not more well known other than this random forum that seems to know ALL about it?” “why did the cops close Val’s computer screen after she died when the gang was busy talking and they could have asked them what happened?” That’s a very dangerous thing. Had the premise been followed through with strong actors, fast paced action or cutaways into the actual rooms where the actors were when things heated up, this might not have been a bad movie. Instead, the movie concerns itself with building up what horrible people the characters are, leading you to feel at the end of the day that all of them deserved some punishment and not feel sorry for them. That also kills any sort of dread or fear you might feel from watching it. Instead, it becomes a PSA for Cyber Bullying, which is lovely, but not the movie’s main intention. But, for a laugh, this movie is excellent. In fact, I recommend watching it just for the giggles.
Also this parody is pretty funny:
Have you seen Unfriended yet? If so, what did you think?