Movies like Unfriended make me happy; Happier, even, than movies like The Avengers or Star Trek — you know, those movies that I live for and would possibly kill for if I was ever asked to. The question I’m sure you’re asking is, “Why does this stupid looking movie make you that happy?”
That’s an excellent question. Obviously, I enjoy watching teenagers get murdered in numerous and gruesome ways, but more than that, this movie makes me happy because I wasn’t expecting to enjoy at all… and I did. I was expecting something tried and dull, but what I got was something witty, well-paced, and inventive.
Unfriended, despite my preconceptions, is probably one of the most originally set horror movies I have seen in a while and one that has an excellent payoff that most of its found-footage ilk don’t.
To put it bluntly, it’s not very often that you see a movie take a chance on an offbeat story delivery system and then actually have it work in the movie’s favor. Unfriended is a movie that succeeds because it uses the framing devise to its advantage, showing the audience what they need to know to understand what’s going on without bogging down the story while at the same time, making the audience uneasy by making the familiar seem dangerous.
Unfriended is told exclusively on the computer desktop of a teenage girl one night as she Skypes with her friends. Unexpectedly, she gets a message from a former friend of hers named Laura who killed herself a year before and, what starts out as something that appears to be a sick joke, quickly becomes a desperate situation as the dead girl’s vengeful spirit lashes out at the people who bullied her into suicide.
I dig not only the setup and delivery of this movie, but I also enjoy the subtle poignancy of the subject matter. Cyberbullying had become an almost meaningless buzzword nowadays and to see a movie make that the crux of its story without beating you over the head with it is quite nice. The emotional detachment of the teens living their lives on the computer screens is just as telling. You rarely see horror movies use analogy this effectively and, what it produces, is an supernatural antagonist that you can actually identify with. I would even go so far as to say that you want Laura to actually get her revenge. You can’t say that about a lot of horror movie antagonists.
Unfriended is also one of those rare movies that, to me at least, actually gets the teenagers right. They make dumb decisions, they’re shallow, they’re volatile, inexperienced… they’re teenagers! They’re even awkward looking and actually look like teenagers, not models. They’re not computer geniuses or kick-boxers, they’re just regular people and, to me at least, that makes them more real and the horror just that much more intense.
In addition to all of this, you also have to applaud Unfriended‘s experimental nature. As I said, the framing devise of this movie, confining it to a computer screen, was a gamble and took major talent to pull off. You just have to respect that fact and I want to get that thought out there before the predictable backlash against it begins.
Of course, Unfriended falls victim to some of the found-footage movie shortcomings that all of them fall victim to. The first few minutes are the same old slow character building nonsense that drags down the first thirty minutes of any found footage movie and that’s rather annoying, but it at least picks up after that and becomes a whole lot more interesting.
So, surprisingly, I enjoyed this movie a lot. I respect it for doing what it did and applaud it for doing that well. It’s got its own cleverly scripted twists and turns and the ending is actually pretty shocking. The actors involved do a great job communicating the rising tension and panic making it a great found footage movie. I would even go so far as to say that Unfriended could very well be remembered as one of the best right up there with The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, and Chronicle.
But why these little prepubescent morons didn’t just throw their laptops out the window, I’ll never know.