I came across the trailer for Unfriended on YouTube one day when I was bored. After watching the trailer, I just thought that this was a standard cliché teen horror movie. So I decided to watch the movie online to see how bad it is and just to have some dumb fun. After watching the film, I was completely surprised and even a little shocked. Unfriended is quite a fantastic film.
The film is about six teens that are having a Skype chat when suddenly a seventh uninvited person joins the call and torments each of them with secrets. It is revealed that a year ago, that a girl named Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman) committed suicide due to an embarrassing video of her passing out at a party and of the resulting bullying by the six main characters. As the call is happening, these six teens suspect that Laura has came back for revenge through her old Skype account.
The plot sounds extremely cliché and unoriginal (which it is) but what truly surprised me about the film is how realistic and how suspenseful it is. The entire film is told through a girl’s computer screen and the entire setup of what is on her screen feels very realistic that it might even warrant an Oscar nomination for best production design (I’m kidding). The sounds created from Skype are the actual sounds created by Skype in real life. The notifications from Facebook appear in the top right corner, just like in real life. She has a million tabs open on her web browser, just like many teens in real life. The main Skype call of the film isn’t 1080p HD quality like in many other movies but very low quality with crappy audio. All of these small details make the film feel a lot more genuine. You can also see the character type something on Skype but then delete it to write something else. These subtle actions done by the characters help build their personality and also help subtly reveal details of what happened prior to the film. I thought that this was amazing and added a level of mystery to the film. What also surprised me was that I wasn’t bored at all and this is quite an accomplishment since the film is what you can call a “contained thriller”, similar to 12 Angry Men and Locke.
As this haunted Skype account reveals dirty secrets about the six main characters, the film starts to become more psychological. We see how these secrets psychologically and emotionally damage these characters and the film transcends beyond its cliché surface. What is most unnerving about the film is its accurate portrayal of the Internet generation and how an anonymous and awful, unsympathetic person on the Internet can be in some ways, more hurtful and terrifying than a man with a knife. The fact that this film is making me think as deep about this generation as The Social Network is definitely worthy of praise.
My largest complaint with the film is that the main characters do feel like stereotypical horror characters. There’s the funny stoner/drunk guy, the slutty girl, the innocent girl, etc. But when the emotional tension of the film begins to rise, the actors actually do a great job of bringing emotional depth to their characters. Some of the scares in the film are cheesy jump scares and it can get repetitive. But there are scenes in the film where you can see anything but the character’s horrified reactions and that really helped make up for the cheesy jump scares.
Unfriended is a truly captivating horror film that offers a terrifying portrayal of cyberbullying’s effects on teenagers and manages to transcend beyond being just a shallow teen horror film. The unorthodox narrative also brings a sense of realism and suspense to the film that helps deliver real scares although there is still a presence of cheesy jump scares. I watched this film way ahead of release (and illegally online) but I think this film definitely deserves my ticket. I am giving Unfriended a B+.
BTW, this is NOT a late April fools joke. Everything I wrote in this review are my true thoughts.
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