Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Unfriended

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past ten years, you will have seen the power of social media growing. Ever since Facebook was founded in 2004, approximately 1.2 billion people have signed up to the service. I’m sure the majority of you dear readers have a profile. Maybe you’re on Twitter, too. So it’s unusual that it’s taken Hollywood this long to make a mainstream horror based around the social media world.


Directed by Leo Gabriadze and out now on DVD & Blu-Ray comes Unfriended. One year after the suicide of her childhood friend Laura, Blaire (Shelley Hennig) begins a quiet night in like any other for so many teenagers – sat on her laptop, browsing Facebook and talking to her friends. Interestingly, the entire film plays out from Blaire’s POV showing only her laptop screen – she and her friends are seen, and heard, via their webcams on Skype. And it is this Skype conversation with her pals that plays throughout the entire film. Why they’re all in a big group chat together isn’t really explained – probably just ‘for the bants’ or ‘the lolz’ – but their fun stops when a faceless account joins the group chat, claiming to be the dead Laura. After failed attempts to block or kick this account from their chat, things get darker and Blaire’s friends start to die in front of her. But, there’s nothing she can do. Because they’re all in different houses on their webcams! 


This is an important message of Unfriended. In the social media world, you can be completely surrounded by thousands of ‘friends’ or you can be in a webcam chat with your closest pals, but you can still be alone. Each of the characters are completely isolated from one another in empty houses, despite all talking with one another throughout the film. The scares were very effective throughout Unfriended purely due to how relatable they are – as I said, the majority of us have Facebook and we’ve all seen wacky shit go down late at night. In contrast, I can’t watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and think “yeah, this reminds me of that time I was chased by a power tool wielding maniac”. But watching Unfriended has made Facebook a slightly spookier place to be, especially having had similar experiences on it in the past. Unfriended is a horror for this generation, the social media generation, and one that is very effective.

Unfriended’s format really worked, and didn’t feel like a gimmick. Again, the entire film takes place on a computer screen – we watch as the night unfolds and people die on their webcams, all the while browsing Facebook, choosing songs on Spotify and watching YouTube. It sounds like it could easily not work, but in the right hands (ie. The filmmakers behind Unfriended), it’s pulled off with great effect. Importantly, all of the official Facebook, Skype and Gmail interfaces are used lending a certain feel of authenticity – there’s no Bookface or Scope or other such bollocks that you usually see in films when, presumably, the filmmakers cannot afford the rights. Despite myself watching Unfriended on a large television, I would imagine it is best viewed on a laptop or computer monitor with the lights off, making you truly feel part of the film. The film is very well observed, with use of memes, typos and even occasional accidental clicking or highlighting, due to realistic mouse movements instead of the usual straight track cursor you see in films.

The entire cast were great and believable, and the pacing of the film meant the format didn’t even get chance to become tedious – at approximately 75 minutes, the film isn’t exactly burdened with a long running time. In true modern horror fashion, a sequel has been confirmed for a 2016 release and I’m sure by 2020 I’ll be reviewing Unfriended 5: The Snapchat Killer…But, like Paranormal Activity, before the repetitive sequels there will always sit a pretty decent and original piece.


Unfriended is a very original take on the increasingly tiresome ‘found footage’ genre, and is the first true social media-based horror. There have been some independent efforts – such as The Den – but Unfriended is the first to have had such a wide release. The cast, format, pacing and scares are all great making Unfriended a pretty solid little horror.

Unfriended earns 4/5, just remember to say no to the sequels when they start sending you friend requests.

★★★★☆
Sam Love


Unfriended at CeX


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