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I don’t know if I could ever hold out much hope for a film that opens with a girl being threatened with a knife by her boyfriend, even as a joke, to make her remove her clothes. And Unfriended does just that.
Okay, so within the first five minutes the film put me in a foul mood. You might think I’m overreacting, but seriously … This is not the kind of thing we should be taking and saying, ‘It’s okay if it’s a joke.’
So, that aside, I didn’t hate Unfriended completely. The film is an interesting take on the found footage genre – rather than kids picking up their incredibly expensive, ultra-high definition cameras and inexplicably recording every second of their lives for the next hour and a half, Unfriended takes a new approach. The entire film is a screen recording of one teen’s Mac as she fiddles about with her files and has a group Skype call with her pals – a Skype call that very quickly turns nasty.
Yeah, it’s cool, but if I wanted to watch a Mac freezing up every five minutes whilst someone opens and closes windows for fun, I’d look over my housemate’s shoulder and be thankful I don’t own a Mac. So things get old pretty quickly.
I imagine a lot of people might see this as clever presentation, but what about the target audience? Unfriended is clearly aimed at teens, most of them likely students that spend a lot of time on their laptops writing essays and such … Frozen screens and loading pinwheels probably aren’t something they’ll be hoping to see in their free time, let alone paying for the privilege. Still, I suppose it adds to the tension … Apparently.
The story itself is okay – it’s nothing new but thanks to this occasionally innovative presentation it’s something that can be looked past. The film’s events take place entirely on the screen of Blaire’s Mac, so effectively we’re seeing everything from her point of view, with her friends showing up only in the group Skype call.
Things quickly turn nasty when Blaire starts getting Facebook messages from Laura Barns, a deceased friend that took her own life after an embarrassing video posted online led to her being severely bullied. I’ll give it to the writers: the message of the film is clear albeit obvious.
It only gets worse when during the group call the friends notice a stranger with no video in the conversation – guess who? Seriously, I’m not even giving you a spoiler warning … It’s so obvious.
Bailey continues to receive these strange and threatening Facebook messages from Laura whilst the rest of the group is terrorised by this stranger, turning them against each other through hijacking keyboards and a deadly game of ‘Never Have I Ever’. Eventually they all cotton on and start to take things a little seriously as Laura takes her revenge on those that tormented her in life – and the group starts dropping like flies. Think Carrie but over Skype.
If there’s anything to be said for the presentation, it’s the interesting insight we get into Blaire’s mind – all those messages that you’ve typed out, thought about, then deleted and reworded (or just given up on), well Blaire does that a lot and we get to see it. It’s interesting to see a character think without actually looking at their face.
However, the novelty quickly wears off. I found myself wanted to shout, ‘Just send the message! It’s fine as it is!!’ That’s a lie of course – I can’t deal with all those abbreviations or acronyms. But what really got me was that just when the tension and pace was beginning to pick up we’d see it grind to a halt as Blaire decided how to carefully phrase the next message to her boyfriend. In combination with the all the freeze-ups and glitches, it makes for a truly infuriating experience.
All in all, this is the kind of film you’ll go to see on a whim. It’s not the big horror event of the year (then again, isn’t every horror film with a big advertising budget ‘the horror event of the year’ these days?), but if you’ve got a bit of a gap in your schedule that could be filled with the odd jump scare that won’t phase any horror veteran but will cause every teenager in the theatre to scream at the top of their lungs, then by all means, enjoy.
Unfriended is now showing in all major cinemas across the UK.