Film Review “Unfriended”

unfriendedStarring: Shelley Hennig, Moses Jacob Storm, and Renee Olstead
Directed By: Levan Gabriadze
Rated: R
Running Time: 82 minutes
Universal Pictures

Our Score: 1.5 out of 5 stars

I remember when “Paranormal Activity 4” came out, I wondered how well a movie would work when the story is told through the eyes of video chat on a computer, cell phone, or any other form of digital technology. While I never saw the movie and can’t judge on whether or not it worked, I’m sure it had its glaring flaws. It probably had the problem of keeping up the believability that characters would continuously be videochatting in the face of supernatural doom. So here comes “Unfriended”, a movie solely based within a computer screen. The resulting experiment is an absolute mess.

“Unfriended” starts with Blaire (Hennig) looking through a couple of videos of Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman) killing herself. Laura blew her brains out because of a video, of her on Youtube, in an uncompromising scenario (No…not that kind). Blaire is a childhood friend of Laura and still harbors some sorrow, despite the giggles and bitter comments from her friends who never give a reason as to why they have such a vast hatred for Laura. Like most teenagers nowadays (I assume), she begins Skyping with her boyfriend and as soon joined by her dopey friends, compromising of a fat nerdy kid who smokes pot, a blonde airhead, a hot headed macho male, and a girl that nobody likes, but they all still hang around. You know, the 21st Century version of teens that you hate.

As if somehow answered your prayers for something terrible to happen to these high schoolers, a Skype caller joins the conversation. Nobody knows who it is and nobody can drop them from the group video chat. Soon the caller begins sending threatening messages, hacking their Facebook, and seemingly doing things that NSA only wishes they could do to your personal computer. So is Laura coming back from the dead to seek vengeance with her master hacking skills from beyond the grave? Or is it simply a vengeful living person…with master hacking skills?

“Unfriended” combines the excitement of calling IT and the horrors of calling IT. For a movie that’s barely below an hour and a half, it sure seems like a three hour long saga of dull proportions. It’s a concept that seems better fit for a “Twilight Zone” episode, if the “Twilight Zone” was ever rebooted for millennials. It’s also a concept that could justify its runtime if there wasn’t so much overactive screaming at one another, glaring continuity errors, and the inability to touch upon some powerful themes.

Yes. There are some powerful themes behind a movie like this. This is a movie that’s very knowledgeable about the Internet and it’s constantly taking advantage of every current form of digital communication. But it never really finds a way to hit home the idea that everything we do online can come back to haunt us. The videos, pictures, and things we’ve said will always be online. They’ll always be somewhere. “Unfriended” manages to do this at one point in the movie, but fails to incorporate the technology that’s dooming our privacy and backstabbing. Instead of forging a new path, it takes the predictable road and falls back on an abundance of horror movie clichés.

Now, I will give style points where style points are deserved. Having the movie take place entirely through the viewpoint of a computer screen is a bold concept, but one that ultimately becomes very tiring to look at. If we didn’t have to do so much waiting on instant messaging responses, we could easily cut out a good 10 minutes. Essentially though, “Unfriended” is something that’s better for a short film format, but it’s trapped in a bloated feature length movie.

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