Shelley Hennig, Moses Storm, Renee Olstead, Will Peltz, Jacob Wysocki
Directed by Levan Gabriadze
As an attempt to be innovative, the movie format of Unfriended uses a MacBook to show viewers the story. It’s mostly shown through first person point-of-view but we do get to see the main character through her Skype camera. That being said, on to the movie.
Unfriended is a high school drama where a group of seniors come to face a fellow student’s suicide one year after it happened. On the anniversary of her death, Laura Barns attacks each character through online messages and then a fatal attack in each character’s room. Laura was bullied in high school, and when an embarrassing video of her went viral on YouTube she killed herself a few days later.
While our main character, Blaire (Hennig), is videochatting with five other friends they notice an uninvited user in their conversation who remains silent for the first twenty minutes. During this time they try to log off and call each other again but no matter what they do, they can’t get rid of this unknown user. The user has no video feed connected but types messages, forcing the friends to play a game of “Never Have I Ever” or else it will kill them if they log off of Skype. At the same time Blaire is being messaged by the ghost on Facebook and thinks it’s her boyfriend hacking the account as a prank. Blaire comes to realize it’s Laura using Skype to take revenge on those who bullied her. The game gets serious when they witness one of their friends die on camera. With no choice but to keep playing, Laura gets closer to the truth of who posted the YouTube video.
The movie tries to be terrifying but it’s hard to be scared of a cyber ghost. It has an interesting setup by using a MacBook to show audiences all the cool features of what it can do, but it failed to be a truly scary movie. Instead of horror, there could have been more suspense. There was an excellent scene in the movie where Blaire and another friend, Adam, (who share a dirty secret) receive a fax but they can’t reveal what is printed to their friends. When Blaire is forced with the choice of showing it or letting her boyfriend log off -therefore getting himself killed- she shows the paper resulting in the death of Adam. One note said: “Reveal this and Adam gets killed” and the other said: “Reveal this and Blaire gets killed.” It was so unexpected but clever and Unfriended could have been a better movie if it had more scenes like this.
As the game of “I Have Never” goes on, dirty secrets of each character are revealed. It’s a good aspect to create drama as the friends get upset with each other; “YOU crashed my mom’s car?” and “YOU sold me out to the cops for selling weed?” While some of the drama was something high schoolers face, the age of the actors fit more with college students. Imagine if this was happening while they were in their dorm room/apartment? It easily could have.
The main message the movie addresses cyber-bullying. Laura Barns, a party-going high school student, is made of fun when a video is posted online labelled “KILL URSELF”. The comments below the video are cruel. Since the age of the internet has become wildly popular among children and adults, online bullying has become an issue. People can say things without attaching their name to the comment. Victims turn to suicide because there is no escape. Though Unfriended aims to scare audiences with a cyber ghost, it also makes audiences aware of the effects online abuse can have. A ghost won’t attack you for saying mean things about someone but the consequences of your words may be a heavy one.
Unfriended was overall entertaining to watch, but it could have been a lot better. This isn’t the type of format I would encourage in movies but I wouldn’t mind it being re-done another time if it was done right in a scary way. This format has been done in one episode of Modern Family. I thought it was pretty successful though a few others may not agree because it is annoying to watch a computer mouse moving around clicking stuff and watching words being typed. In 2013 a movie was made with a similar idea to this.
The ending of Unfriended just wasn’t satisfying. It aims to go for that last jump-scare instead of leaving viewers pondering a question. For example: what would it be like if Blaire had to live through the rest of her life with all of her friends dead and knowing she was responsible?