Directed by Levan Gabriadze
Tonight, I’m sorry to report that I can’t help you by recommending or not recommending the new horror movie “Unfriended.” Here’s why.
Essentially, “Unfriended” is like “Saw” on Skype. The entire movie is shown using the desktop screen of Blaire (Shelley Henig), a high school student who has a video chat with her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm) and four of their friends (Will Peltz, Renee Olstead, Jacob Wysocki, and Courtney Halverson). But there’s also a seventh caller, who has no username or profile picture. And as often as they try, they can’t hang up on the mystery caller. Eventually, the caller claims to be Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman), who committed suicide a year ago after a video of her passed out drunk at a party in soiled shorts was posted on YouTube. She tests the bond of these friends by making them confront their nastiest secrets, including some that led to her suicide. As we see Blaire (like Linda Blair, star of “The Exorcist,” or the Blair Witch?) read online that ghosts can possess people and cause them to take their own life, we see proof of that on the glitchy computer screen in front of us.
“Unfriended” revolutionizes the horror genre, though the years of Skype and Facebook have given way to FaceTime and Twitter, for the most part. Though there’s no score, only Blaire’s occasional iTunes track and the nearly constant white noise of shouting, scared-shitless friends, the computer idea is actually an effective vehicle for horror. We get to see the reactions of six (five, four, three…) people as they confront each other, confront Laura’s ghost, and confront themselves. The glitchy cameras of the Skypers can get annoying, but when the horror is happening it’ll come in handy to scare the crap out of you. Karma is a bitch, and her name is Laura Barns. But as effective as “Unfriended” is at making you feel truly sorry for the victims—and you really do…like in “Saw,” you think they deserve some punishment for their sins but certainly not this—it also makes you look within. Think back. Have you ever cyber-bullied? Even as a joke? When’s the last time you commented on a YouTube video saying something you wouldn’t have said to the user’s face? Then this movie is about you, too. Does the punishment fit the crime? Maybe if you were the victim of the original attack.
“Unfriended,” the simple-premised, low-budget movie that it is, is still with me. In my gut. It’s not quite horror that I feel. Is it guilt? I couldn’t say. If you want to come out of a movie feeling like this, go for it. “Unfriended” is well-made and effectively terrifying. But for my part, I think I’ll stick with the horror movies that don’t cut quite so deep.