There are few things you should never mess with if you value your existence. Ouija boards in cemeteries. Old books bound in human flesh and inked in blood. Me in the morning before having had any coffee. Possibly the most terrifying of them all: teenagers. Unfriended reminds you that in this technological age, friendship should still be sacred.
What starts off as innocent sex-chatting (involving the playful threat of violence with a kitchen knife) between Blaire (Shelley Hennig) and her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm), quickly escalates when they join their friends in what seems like a typical Skype session. This day is different because a year ago, one of their friends, Laura (Heather Sossaman) took a gun to school and killed herself publicly. The video of it is still alive on LiveLeak, as is the video on YouTube that lead to Laura’s suicide. An unknown person joins their chat, using the name of their dead friend Laura. They each get exposed on Facebook to be the true “friends” that they really are. Then, they are forced to take part in a chat roulette of death when this unknown figure forces them to play a game of “Never Have I Ever”. If you lose, you die. If you try to disconnect, you die. If you win, you die. But if you’re already dead, apparently you get to come back a year after your death because that’s just how these films work.
Having everything take place behind a computer screen is as innovative as it is gimmicky. For this instance, there is nothing wrong with that because the idea its fresh and it reflects this generation. It mirrors a generation where some of the most horrific things are said and done behind the safety of a computer screen. Switching between windows and having side conversations keep the screen from going stagnant and stale. Even the inclusion of Spotify gives the film a soundtrack to play off. The horror genre is notorious for taking an idea that seems original the first time around (like Saw or Paranormal Activity) and creating creativity crushing sequels that turns the freshest idea into something putrid. The film is your standard revenge film, but the execution (not to be confused with the executions) is what has the ability to potentially pass the test of time, only if no sequels in the same format are made.
The entire premise is convoluted, but you’ll just have to suspend disbelief to truly enjoy this webcam terror. Aside from wondering why that one kid has a kitchen knife in his room for sexual roleplay, or why this other kid is drunk and playing with a gun, what you’re really left wondering is where are the parents of these kids? None of them even make an appearance at any point, which makes you forget they are supposed to be teenagers. It might be giving this film too much credit by thinking it has a social commentary based on the state of our children and the increase in bullying. Unfriended focuses on our social media dependent society, and how it makes it easier to call someone a “friend”, even though we do everything to the contrary. It also highlights the casual cruelty that exists in schools and is perpetrated sometimes unintentionally. Nothing in this film scares me more than the idea of having to go through high school in this decade.
Unfriended uses its subtle development of suspense to create genuine, well-earned scares, even if there are only a few. As a byproduct, this film serves as an effective anti-bullying PSA and as a means to connect with most of the audience through the use of all of the popular social media outlets. All except Twitter, but that is probably because ghosts aren’t fond of the 140 character limit.
RATING: ★★★★★★(6/10 stars)
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