Unfriended (1 out of 10); Directed by Levan Gabriadze; Written by Nelson Greaves; Starring Shelley Hennig, Matthew Bohrer, Will Peltz and Heather Sossaman; Rated R for violent content, pervasive language, some sexuality and drug and alcohol use – all involving teens; 82 minutes; In wide release on April 17, 2015.
Hollywood loves found-footage films because they are cheap to produce and usually make a ton of money. Unfortunately, most of these end up being complete rubbish and exist only to add to the studio’s bottom line. Unfriended looks promising because the trailers portray it as a unique and fresh take on the tired genre — a Blair Witch for the Facebook generation. Sadly, its gimmick is all it has going for it, and after it wears off 20 minutes in, all that’s left is an utterly boring and forgettable experience.
The whole movie takes place on a MacBook screen where the plot is laid out via text messages, Skype, YouTube and Facebook Messenger. Blaire (Shelley Hennig) and her friends are all happily Skyping each other when an unknown person hacks in and starts harassing them. At first this hacker is merely an annoyance since it won’t go away, but when it starts revealing dirty secrets about each teen’s past, they desperately try to get rid of it even as they begin to turn on each other. Blaire eventually figures out that it is the one year anniversary of the death of Laura (Heather Sossaman), one of their classmates who was driven to suicide after a particularly lecherous video of her was released online and ruined her life. Sure enough, the ghost of Laura has indeed possessed their computers and is out to get revenge against the people who tormented her in life. One by one, each teenager falls prey to her twisted games in order to punish whoever was responsible for recording and posting the video.
The only good thing about Unfriended is the initial novelty of watching everything unfold on a computer screen. Considering that many of us, and especially Millennials, pretty much live in their phones and computers, the idea of a ghost stalking you through social media is actually pretty cool and creepy. The director does a decent job of making it feel like we are watching a real teenager use her computer as she constantly flips through apps and web pages in the way a bored adolescent would. But like I said, that gets old really fast.
The last two-thirds basically boils down to a bunch of teenagers texting, drinking and yelling obscenities at each other, and that’s not a movie, that’s something on MTV. None of the kids are remotely likable; there’s no one to root for as each is an abominable person who we want to see killed in horrible ways except we really don’t get to.
Sure, the kids begin to die off in presumably gruesome ways, but instead of allowing us to see what happens, their computer will freeze or “buffer” allowing only a brief glimpse of what took place before their session hangs up. Half the fun of a horror movie are the death scenes, but Unfriended isn’t even kind enough to give us that. Which leads to the biggest problem of all.
Horror can be funny, bloody, scary or outright strange, but this one isn’t any of that. It’s literally nearly an hour and a half of watching kids text with an occasional moment of “tension” thrown in when we know the ghost is going to kill someone. It isn’t scary in the least nor is it funny or remotely entertaining. This is the very worst kind of film because it’s very obvious it — and the inevitable sequels — only exist to fill a bank account.
I guess one can argue that it is trying to make a statement about the evils of cyber bullying, and yes, that is an underlying message, but most people would probably find an after-school special more interesting than the drivel presented here. There’s just nothing going on.
Unfriended is so bad that months down the road, most people won’t even remember it exists, and I can’t think of a more damning sentiment about a film. This could have been really fun and creepy, so it’s too bad that the final result was so terrible.