By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
I cannot honestly say this movie completely works as a horror film, but does work as a suspenseful and highly amusing critique of teenagers and their obsessive use of electronic devices and social media. Though I did tense up in some scenes, I spent most the time smiling and laughing at the drama unfolding before me. The whole experience is quite entertaining; however it definitely lacks a certain punch to deliver genuine fright. Also, I found it rather difficult to actually care for the victims, as they come across as entitled brats. I’m not so twisted that I felt some satisfaction with the victimization of these teens, but I just couldn’t find it in me to really root for anyone in particular. It is that lack of relationship between characters and audience which will probably leave some people feeling uninspired.
A year to the day following the tragic suicide of high school teen Laura Barns (Heather Sossamon), a group of her classmates begin receiving strange communications from Skype, Facebook, and Instagram from an anonymous user claiming to be the deceased. Blair (Shelley Hennig), Laura’s best friend, her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm), and friends Jess (Renee Olstead), Adam (Will Peltz), Ken (Jacob Wysocki), and Val Rommel (Courtney Halverson) believe this invasion of their electronic media is a part of a sick prank. However, as the anonymous entity begins to reveal some dark secrets about the group, including the huge event leading up to Laura’s suicide, the group suspects malintent. These suspicions are confirmed as the violent attacks begin.
Written by Nelson Greaves and directed by Levon Gabriadze, Unfriended does have a highly relevant gimmick and also makes a valid point about cyber-bullying and teen obsession with social media. The movie loses its way when attempting to deliver a frightening and scary film. The director does succeed in delivering some effective suspense building in the attack scenes, but my lack of connection to the characters really took me out of the whole experience. This has little to do with the performances of the cast members and more to do with the lack of development of the characters.
I know performance is part of that development, but in this case, I see the script as mainly to blame for this discrepancy. If anything, the acting works somewhat effectively. I could buy that these teens are being victimized, but I found it difficult to root for their survival. Lead actors Shelley Hennig, Moses Jacob Storm, and Will Peltz all perform well and deserve roles in better films. The fact that the film takes place almost entirely on a computer screen limits the blocking, but the cast members manage to keep the film interesting.
The computer gimmick also works as part of the satire. I just wanted some good old fashioned frights to make me jump out of my seat. That’s the beauty of a great horror movie and this film just doesn’t have that fear factor. As low as my rating is, I will still recommend this movie, particularly to teen audiences who can relate to the characters and their multimedia multitasking. Perhaps, they will learn something about themselves. Aside from the silly amusement I had with the scenario, that is the only value I can see this movie offering.