Unfriended (2015)

It’s somewhat counter-intuitive to the movie-going experience to tell people to specifically wait for for a film to be released onto DVD because the experience on a small screen will be greater, but in the case of Unfriended, that is entirely your best bet. Moreover, I would implore you to watch it on a laptop to truly get the experience intended by the filmmakers.

It’s been one year since Laura (Heather Sossamen) killed herself after being the victim of cyber-bullying in the form of an embarrassing video taken at a party going viral. Former best friend Blaire (Shelley Hennig) and her friends are in a group chat on Skype. All is normal, until a mysterious anonymous account joins the conversation. Despite all their attempts to remove them, (exiting the chat and reentering etc) the faceless infiltrator remains ever present. All the while, Blaire begins to receive Facebook messages from someone claiming to be Laura. Has her account been hacked, or is something more sinister at play?

Unfriended plays out (almost) entirely on Blaire’s computer screen, and not only gives us a front row seat to what’s going on, gives us a voyeuristic view into the mind of a teenager growing up in a social media dominated world. The research into what a teenagers desktop would look like is spot on; a cluttered mess of open tabs containing concert tickets, YouTube music videos and TV shows (Teen Wolf? There’s no accounting for some people’s taste…). It also superbly demonstrates what is going on in the mind of the protagonist. In several instances you see her hastily type out an aggressive message, but pause before hitting send, only to delete it and type something more diplomatic; something I think we’re all guilty of doing.

It’s initially quite easy to forget that this is a horror movie, but soon enough, things start to get ugly. The mysterious intruder starts to play on the insecurities of each of the unsuspecting teenagers, revealing dark secrets, betrayals and even infidelity. It becomes real car-crash viewing; unpleasant to watch, but drawing you in, leaving you aching to see what the next big secret reveal is. There’s a dark ‘internet’ sense of humour too, which may completely pass over the heads of those not versed in the ways of the internet, but if you get it, it’ll leave you almost feeling guilty for watching, and in some cases, laughing. Even Spotify gets involved, sporadically playing songs to reflect the mood. A fine example of this being How you Lie Lie Lie by Connie Conway and I Hurt Too by Katie Herzig.

Unfriended really shines in it’s realism. Yes, it is a movie about a vengeful spirit out to pay back those who tormented her, but the film is so engrossing, it almost transcends this story. Take out the supernatural element, and you’ve got a film that highlights the dangers of cyber-bullying, an all-too-real threat in today’s world. Torment under the veil of anonymity is where the ‘real life’ scares come. These aren’t a bunch of naive kids running around an abandoned amusement park, or escaping a mad killer on campus; they’re in the safety of their homes, chatting to their friends on the internet. Therein lies the terror. Though they can see and hear their friends, they are all completely helpless.

It also greatly demonstrates how easily distracted we are when online. Even when faced with a supposed dead girl messaging you, don’t forget to check out those friend requests on Facebook, or the latest Spotify playlist, and by God, don’t forget to untag yourself in those unflattering pics. How much you enjoy Unfriended hinges almost entirely on how well versed you are with internet culture. If you fit this category, you’ll find it traumatic, witty at times and frighteningly accurate. If not, it’ll be a film that unfortunately goes straight over your head, with a few half-hearted jumps in there. Catered for a very specific audience, it does what it does exceptionally well, but wider audiences will struggle to appreciate the attention to detail, overshadowed by an ultimately weak ‘horror’ premise.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

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