There’s the old adage, ‘Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.’ In the newest cybernatural horror film, Unfriended, this rings truer than ever, and following this rule may mean the difference between life or death.
The catalyst for the events to follow is that of an embarrassing video of a girl that is posted online and the ensuing harassment which ultimately leads to the girl taking her own life. Now, on the anniversary of the girl’s death, five friends begin getting mysterious messages from an unknown person who is out to expose some truths that led to the tragic suicide. Is it someone simply out for revenge, or could it be the ghostly spirit of the dead girl herself?
On paper, or better said, as written, a film taking place entirely on a computer screen sounds like it wouldn’t, or shouldn’t work, or at the very least, would eventually become redundant or monotonous. But that’s never the case here, as Unfriended proves thoroughly watchable and utterly engrossing from start to finish. The audience sees everything through the vantage point of lead protagonist, Blaire, as we watch her computer screen as she video chats with her friends, sends messages and searches for information. And rather than this being limiting, it actually opens the movie up more as we see what the characters, as many as six, are all doing at the same time. In addition, Blair may be chatting with one person, while messaging another, while researching something else, so with so much going on at times, one’s interest never wanes.
As the messages Blaire and her friends are getting become more sinister, twisted and ultimately, threatening, the mystery and terror continues to build. One would never think incredible suspense could be built upon whether or not a [SEND] button will be hit, but Unfriended manages to do just that. It’s really all very clever, thanks to the script by Nelson Greaves, and the direction of Levan Gabriadze. The cast is excellent as well, led by the most recognizable cast member, Shelley Henning, as Blaire. You might know her from the short-lived witchy show, The Secret Circle, last year’s Ouija and currently as the werecoyote, Malia Tate, on MTV’s Teen Wolf. Henning and the rest of the small cast manage to bring the horror of the proceedings to life with limited sets and action, mostly by exhibiting terror in their voices and close-up expressions. It all just works.
Another aspect of Unfriended that sets it apart from other teen slashers or ghost stories is that it deals with a very real and very topical problem concerning today’s youths, that of cyberbullying. While bullying in general goes back a long ways, with today’s technology and pervasiveness of social media, especially among the young, bullying has taken on a whole new life. Though the reasons for bullying are still the same, whether attributed to the ignorance of youth or the insecurities that come with trying to find oneself during adolescence, the means of bullying are more prevalent today. And the fact that one can often do so anonymously, and not face any repercussions, makes it a lot easier too. That the film tackles this subject head on, and that it’s core audience is that which is affected most by this issue really gives the movie an added depth. And, who knows, maybe some people who view the film will get the message, and next time, upon writing a hurtful text or posting an ill-advised video, will pause and think twice before hitting that [SEND] button on their keypad.
— review by Brian de Castro