31 jul. 2015

Unfriended (6/10): A fresh spin on the familiar found footage horror genre.

“Online, your memories live forever... but so do your mistakes.”

In a time when most teens spend hours staring at their smartphones or in front of a computer screen, Unfriended introduces us to a pretty interesting concept: a film that takes place entirely in a computer screen through a chat room. That minimalist found- footage premise is the most interesting thing about this low budget horror film and one of the reasons why it’s worth checking out. That is the only unique thing about Levan Gabriadze’s Unfriended since its story is rather predictable and it’s not hard to guess what the outcome will be. It hits pretty much every beat in the familiar haunted story genre and the characters aren’t likable at all. Inspired by the real life suicides of Amanda Todd and Audri Pott, Unfriended has a heavy anti cyber-bullying message, but there is not much more to it. A girl is videotaped in a very compromising position and somehow that video went viral and as a result she began to receive hateful messages like “kill urself.” The bullying led to her suicide which was also caught on camera.

The entire film unfolds over a computer screen and the first image we see is a viral video of a teen named Laura shooting herself in front of a crowd. Apparently it is the anniversary of her death. We immediately find out that it’s Blaire’s (Shelley Hennig) computer that we are seeing when she receives a Skype video call from her boyfriend, Mitch (Moses Storm). The two begin to have an intimate conversation when all of a sudden they are interrupted by a group chat with some of their High School friends: Jess (Renee Olstead), Adam (Will Peltz), and Ken (Jacob Wysocki). They soon realize that there is a sixth guest listening to their conversations, but they believe it is just a glitch. As they are chatting, Blaire begins receiving some bizarre texts from Laura’s Facebook account. By the time Val (Courtney Halverson) joins in on the conversation they begin to realize that this unwanted guest is someone who knows their darkest secrets. The guest, writing under the name of Billie and claiming to be Laura, begins threatening them and forcing them to play games. This guest threatens their lives if any of them abandons the chat or losses the game. It soon becomes apparent that each one of these kids had something to do with Laura’s death, and someone wants them to pay the price.

At first the entire focus on one computer screen seemed too limited and restricted, but eventually the suspense and the story began to pull me in. If only the characters were a bit more likable I would’ve enjoyed this more, but it was still interesting enough to keep me watching. I wasn’t familiar with the cast, but they did deliver convincing performances.  The film managed to hold my attention without doing too much so I’d say it was effective in a way. It does become a bit repetitive and overstays its welcome. The horror scenes aren’t all that great either, but the plot does have you wondering for a moment what each one of the kids was responsible for. Unfriended uses a fresh gimmick and it tries to exploit a familiar and relevant issue in today’s society about bullying, but that is about it so many might leave the film unsatisfied with what it was trying to accomplish.      

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