Movie Review: “Unfriended” – The Kids Aren’t Alright

Written by Angela April 23, 2015

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Beyond shocking and disgusting the masses, horror movies can serve society as both a useful medium for commentary and a channel for cultural fears. “Cloverfield,” for instance, hones in on post 9/11 anxieties, while “Dawn of the Dead” touches upon the integration of consumerism with day-to-day living. Considering the way it revolves around issues of cyberbullying, it’s clear that dir. Levan Gabriadze’s “Unfriended” aims to insert itself into a similar, socially reflective niche. It’s questionable, however, as to how tastefully the film manages to do so.

One night during a routine Skype chat with her boyfriend, teenager Blaire Lily (Shelley Hennig) searches the internet for a Youtube video capturing the suicide of her friend, Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman). After watching the graphic footage of Laura shooting herself in the face on the highschool track, Blaire then finds an earlier video of an inebriated Laura. The title of this video goes along the lines of “Kill Urself, Laura.” Blaire’s friends later join the Skype chat and although most of the talk revolves around gossip and the upcoming prom, the kids are reminded that this is the anniversary of Laura’s death when someone under Laura’s profile joins the conversation and coerces them into a deadly game of “never have I ever.” One by one, the kids confess the ways in which they contributed to Laura Barn’s death before paying the grisly consequences.

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By this movie’s logic, youngsters (anyone under the age of 25) these days know little of the pre-internet world. For them, the concept of simply shutting off a cell phone or computer and breaking ties with its projected conflict appears to be relatively inconceivable; real life and the online world are utterly symbiotic, much to the bewilderment of anyone in the audience who recalls managing adolescence without a smart phone glued permanently to their palm. In this respect, “Unfriended” falls flat as an effective horror film for those who graduated high school in 2007 or earlier. Despite the movie’s insistence, a vengeful ghost is just not a good enough reason to not turn off my computer, even when shit goes awry. The plot does its best to establish rules by punishing the kids who dare to consider logging off, but even with my disbelief suspended high in the air I found very little to be afraid of. In my day we dealt with poltergeists head on with research and books and holy water, not from afar with google and chat roulette. Even though the supposed “kids” of this film regularly partake in sex and drugs the likes of which I haven’t even seen as a college student, this audience of “Unfriended” is nevertheless intended for a much younger and apparently hipper generation then my own.

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The truth shall set you free….

The events of the movie are presented as one entire Skype session from Blaire’s laptop screen, with even a fabricated desktop peeking behind at almost all times as she multitasks away. Like “The Blair Witch Project” before it, the detailed layout of the film is fairly revolutionary and for that it deserves some credit. The narrative is surprisingly seamless and finds clever ways to manifest suspense, although the same cannot be said for any of the underwhelming performances. As for the transparent critique on cyberbullying, “Unfriended” sits atop the scale of ambiguity, needing only a general consensus to deem it innovative or insensitive. Considering how the internet allots unwarranted power to irresponsible youths lacking a moral compass, the film could serve as meaningful revelation of how teens have been enabled to dissociate themselves from the impact of their actions. On the other hand, the movie can also be read as exploiting the suicide of a teenage girl in the same way “The Chernobyl Diaries” exploits victims of radiation poisoning. Either way, “Unfriended” points out how deeply engrained today’s youth has become with the online world. If this doesn’t scare you, it should make you a little uncomfortable.

My Rating: 5.5/10

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About Angela

Angela McInnes is an English major and up-and-coming horror film aficionado. To her, happiness is a bottle of rum and a creature-feature on a Saturday night.

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