Unfriended shouldn’t work! For long chunks of the movie you are watching two people type their conversation to each other. The whole movie is literally watched as if you are sitting in front of a laptop screen, witnessing events, and subsequently experiencing the movie, through the eyes of the first character we meet – Blaire. This should be boring and infuriatingly slow but instead we get an original style of horror movie that finally takes us back to what Found Footage has lost in its constant dilution.
Found Footage was such a revolution because it felt so real, raw and new. You were within the story and if it was done right, it could feel like a true story. It could be so real that you felt in danger as “your character” ran from an unknown assailant or witnessed the awful effects of the horror. Unfriended brings that creative element back to the forefront. You feel like you are in the story and you are genuinely affected by the events that occur.
You do have to look past some awful, wooden and forced acting to start with but slowly we get introduced to the many different characters. These characters do manage to fit into well-established and cliché teenage moulds – from the overweight hacker, to the devious young jock and the misunderstood golden girl with a heart of gold. The characters mean very little but this matters less when it is the concept that is driving the movie and you spend so much intimate time with the people who will ultimately meet their gruesome demise.
It is gruesome too. Once you have witnessed the first creepy suicide, perfectly presented with the means of stillness and the buzzing of a mobile phone, you fearfully anticipate the fate of the other characters. Usually met with a circular loading symbol; flashes of the gory suicides are presented in five second bursts but enough to reach maximum effect.
The torturous suicides are because of the various secrets the teenage characters hold from each other. A creative game of “I have never…” plays out like a cyber-version of Russian Roulette and the revelations were great. This is where the cast did their best work – acting the fear, shock and intensity of the various untold secrets brilliantly.
The film is all about the medium in which it is being presented and this is its triumph. The fact that it feels so real and is done so seamlessly just adds to how scary and tense the movie can be. It also helps that the makers managed to get all the big, internet companies on-board. Using fake or almost companies to replace the real-deal would have been a unmissable distraction but here the movie uses Skype, Facebook, Instagram, Google and YouTube. It is this attention to realism that makes the film so successful.
It is by no means perfect. Like any movie in this style, it stretches credibility and the acting ranges wildly from great to corny but if you let yourself get swept up in what Unfriended is trying to do, you will find a very original and scary horror film that might just pump a little bit of life back in the Found Footage genre.
Overall, Unfriended is a movie that shouldn’t work but manages to knock it out of the park. You will watch people type, wait for responses with dread and hope that videos don’t load or Skype conversations don’t connect. It brings back the fresh feel of Found Footage that hasn’t truly been felt since The Blair Witch Project. It isn’t perfect but it managed to scare me and that was the plan anyway…
Rating – 4.5
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)