The most terrifying things to teenagers today is their Wi-Fi going down and losing all access to the internet and all its functions. Then again I suppose most teens have 3G or 4G on their phones by now so that’s more than likely not a problem for some but for others it’s a horrible thought (also considering that most of your school work is done online these days as well). So, why not make a movie using the internet as plot device to unleash a paranormal attack on un-expecting teens? In some ways you might find this to be gimmicky but every generation of horror films comes in cycles and exploits the fears of that society on screen (some less subtle then others). Why do you suppose that most horror movies in the 1950s dealt with nuclear bombs and radiation and a main source of their horror? It was the fear of that group of society being shown on screen.
Now we live in the technology age. Nearly everyone has got a laptop, computer, cell phone, or internet at their disposal and we as a race have gotten very comfortable with it. With it though comes new problems and cyber bulling is one of those problems. In that advent, that cyber bulling has contributed the deaths of many people across the world. Now, in that age this film “Unfriended” (originally titled “Cybernatural”) looks to tackle this subject and exploit for it’s own brand of horror that hasn’t really been seen before. The film (well actually I can’t really call this a film seeing as it takes place live, entirely on someone’s computer) turned a lot far better than I was expecting. “Unfriended” has surprisingly a lot of ambition but still it never grasps fully and becomes increasingly more predictable; but never really is as scary as it wants to be.
A year after the suicide of a young teenage named Laura Barns a group of friends gather online for a Skype chat date. When someone gains access into the chat using Barns account where the friends come under attack from this person until it becomes increasingly clear that this might not be someone just hacking into a dead girl’s account.
This movie actually in part feels more like a stage play with the entire film taking place in one location and relies on the characters interacting with one another. At points this feels like a regular teen slasher movie mixed with something like “12 Angry Men”. All the characters argue and debate, we learn about some of their secrets and past, while trying to figure out the killer. In the first third of this movie everything is firing on all cylinders. The characters are cardboard cutouts of other horror archetypes but they feels pretty real and natural when they are on screen; talking and acting like real teenagers do today. There is a lot of nice little touches, making Skype freeze up on the characters (much like it does in real life), the audio gets a little funky; the chat message boards felt real and organic, and the moments of humor are actually really funny and well placed as well. A lot of little things here are done really well.
The problems begin to emerge as the film presses on. The characters deaths are mixture of over the top splatter fests and loud noise jump scares. At first they were pretty impactful because it’s unfolding over something that’s so mundane that it feels more real than your average typical slasher film. Yet, after around the first two deaths they lose their power. They become more and more predictable and less terrifying. That happens for just all the tricks this movie conjures up. There starts to become a game the assailant begins playing with the characters that that is full of tension and drama until you can start to see a pattern emerge over and over again. That’s when the tension begins to evaporate and the film begins to descend downwards.
The ending though feels like a real cop out, typical horror movie ending. (Without giving anything away) at first it’s a bit unexpected then I realized what the filmmakers opted for and it in part ruined the finale of the film. For a movie that deals with cyber bulling and the effects that it can have on people, the film actually had a very impactful resolution then…it threw it away for something more cheap and generic.
“Unfriended” never bored me, I was locked in the entire time even as the suspense of the film waivered into the final acts of the film. I wish we got to know more about Laura Barns because she is said to have had a troubled life and the movie never really gives much of a clue as to what. That being said this film was far better than what I expected ( which shows how low my expectations were). There is the foundations for something special but never capitalizes on its potential.