A review of “Unfriended” (2014)

“Unfriended” (2014) is a low-budget independent horror film that took enormous risks — and boy, did they pay off nicely.  This is an outstanding and truly creative entry into the found-footage horror sub-genre that deserves a 9 out of 10.

This movie is unique, as far as I’m aware — it is seen almost entirely through the computer screen of one of five friends terrorized by a vengeful ghost — a classmate who commit suicide after a humiliating video of her was posted online.  But the term “vengeful ghost” probably doesn’t do justice to Laura Barns; the antagonist here brutally turns the story into a kind of slasher film.  It’s surprisingly well done.  Screenwriter Nelson Greaves attacks the script with darkly ingenius flair, as Laura sadistically and psychologically torments each victim before dispatching them.

The movie was shot in a single long take, and the actors actually performed in different rooms of the same house.  Except for its final shot, it takes place exclusively on Skype, Facebook, and Youtube, I think.  It makes me wonder … did the filmmakers get permission from those websites?  I doubt it.  Or are screenshots of global, publicly accessible forums like those not protected by copyright?

The only real quibbles I had reflect “Unfriended’s” limited budget.  The character deaths vary greatly in realism.  One is terrifying, another is slightly less so. One is scary but also puzzling, given its modus operandi.  One is scary only if you are susceptible to a predictable jump scare.  And one is so obviously staged that it seems like something you or I might better portray with a $4 prop from a novelty store.

I should note also that this is a particularly dark film, even without the horror elements.  Its portrayal of teenage life during the Internet age is ugly, to say the least.  Suppose there were no homicidal ghost in this story — it would still be a disturbing film even if every character besides the suicidal Laura survived.


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