I think that Hollywood is trying to tell us that technology is terrible. Cell phone calls from the dead. Cursed VHS tapes (that should have at least been on DVD by now). These tech-based horror movies are giving the indication that perhaps the stone-age wasn’t all that bad. Still, one of the best ways for a horror movie to succeed is by taking the familiar and making us feel uncomfortable about it. Unfriended takes its own crack at tech-based horror, stuffing a controversial, real life issue into a social media-inspired horror tale. While the movie was executed well, it was overshadowed at times by the usual clichés of the genre that keep it from being an original masterpiece and instead gives us a solid weekend diversion.
A low budget release, Unfriended uses a 1st person view that is pretty popular in many of today’s horror offerings. Unlike most movies of this type, this one moves away from found footage techniques that lost their luster a long time ago. Instead, Unfriended uses a slightly different perspective, taking place entirely through the view of the main character as she views her computer screen. While in a group video chat with her boyfriend and other friends, Blaire and her associates find themselves harassed by an unknown stranger. Despite numerous efforts, they are unsuccessful in disconnecting the stranger from the chat, and the story starts to take a sinister turn as secrets from the past come back to (literally) haunt them. Someone, or something, wants revenge against this group of friends for the parts that they played in the suicide death of Laura Barnes. Clues as to why the unknown guest wants revenge are given throughout the movie, and we see the consequences of each character’s role in Laura’s demise all the way up to the closing scenes.
With Friends Like These…
One of the difficulties I had with this movie was determining just how I should feel about these characters. By the time the credits roll, you come to the conclusion that not a single one of them were very likeable. Even Laura (the suicide victim) was hinted as and slightly portrayed as being a terrible person (or a terrible drunk), despite her lightly hinted troubled past. Given the bullying theme involved, I suppose that these unlikeable character traits shouldn’t be all that surprising. Still, it would be nice to at least root for a hero or two in a horror film. Yet here, it was hard to find sympathy for anyone. If the purpose of this movie was for us to hate everyone, then it largely succeeded.
Despite their character personalities, the actors and actresses seemed to handle their roles well. There are no huge stars to be found here, with a small cast of mostly unfamiliar faces unless you managed to see them in a random TV show or movie. Probably the most recognizable face would be that of Shelley Hennig (Blaire), who has most recently featured heavily in horror/sci-fi entertainment such as Teen Wolf (TV series) and last year’s Ouija. Overall, the range of emotions displayed by each actor hits their marks, if not seeming a bit over the top at times.
A Real Life Issue
Even with the horror premise, Unfriended gives us a look at some of the severe consequences that occur due to bullying in today’s social media influenced world. We are way beyond the days of teasing in our school hallways, with young children and adults finding their most embarrassing moments spread out for the entire world to see due to our more web-connected lives. While this movie presents a work of fiction, the non-supernatural elements on display are horrifically real, and reminds us of just how cruel some people can be and just how vulnerable their victims are.
So is this a good movie? Honestly, I think it falls somewhere along the lines of entertaining yet forgettable. The bullying theme is undoubtedly important, but it is overshadowed by generic low-budget horror clichés that we have seen time and again. In the end, this is a fairly predictable journey, with some eye-rolling dialogue and no real twists to speak of. I would definitely recommend a Redbox rental if you’ve never seen it before, but it may not be worth revisiting again after that.