It’s often said that art reflects life. Unfriended turns the mirror towards a modern age of teenagers who sometimes veer on being brain dead, yet can problem solve with the drop of a hat when they need to use technology. Twenty years ago, a movie would only call on one token techie. Now, a movie can afford to fill its roster with this type of character.
While Unfriended deals with terrors that are beyond supernatural, the issue of being hacked, scrutinized, bullied, and threatened online through various programs is relevant more than ever. Filmmaker Leo Gabriadze and screenwriter Nelson Greaves use a situation that’s very literal for their movie, while using a presentation that uses modern software and websites to deliver their points. While this sort of filmmaking may be too on the nose for some, I found its authenticity chilling.
Greaves doesn’t bother setting the horror up as a “found footage” premise. He saves us the contrivances of, let’s say, this video being randomly recorded and “discovered” by police on lost hard drives under the Brooklyn Bridge. By ditching the played-out fad, Unfriended ends up standing on its own legs and becoming more of a beacon of creativity in a genre full of filmmakers willing to follow rather than lead.
Unfriended is a pleasant scary surprise, but it’s so shrill. The constant screaming captured through shallow microphones is convincing, but almost to a fault. I was reminded of Gasper Noé’s Enter the Void, and my criticism towards how the film followed its premise so well, it started revealing the worst qualities of the movie. The same can be said about Unfriended. I appreciated how close Gabriadze stuck to his timely approach, but it makes your ear drums throb when enduring it in a movie theatre. A win/loss for the filmmaker.
The young actors are all convincing by how unaware they are to the spooky situation, and how willing they are to hide the truth from their peers. Even when the online deceptions start toying with their futures – sometimes resulting in bloody deaths.
Unfriended is a surprisingly intelligent off-shoot of the “found footage” genre, but also a spin on jump scares. As you can imagine, notification noises spring up uninvited along with unsettling uses of Skype’s sign-on jingle. However, all these sudden scares don’t feel cheap because they’re all properly justified. The only unoriginal fright is the film’s final one, but it’s not enough of a misstep to be angry about.
It’s easy to have disdain towards Unfriended considering how literal it’s reflecting modern society’s apathetic way of communicating and criticizing. That said, there’s a lot of cleverness to Gabriadze’s flick that will go unnoticed if we don’t support this type of outside-the-box thinking. I don’t want a sequel to Unfriended nor do I want horror filmmakers to copy these scare tactics. Unfriended is fantastic how it is, and it deserves our full attention.