Unfriended lost me around the time I discovered the movie was titled Unfriended. So immediately. It lost me immediately. The idea of a teen focused horror movie that centered on nefarious social media doings did not appeal to me in the slightest. It certainly didn’t help when the advertising took the clichéd route of forgoing actual footage of the movie to instead show preview audiences jumping and screaming while watching the movie. Why do I care that a bunch of people I don’t know found a movie scary? Especially teenagers. You know what’s ridiculously easy to do? Frighten teenagers. When I worked at a theatre we once had to talk a teen girl down because she refused to go back in the theatre and finish watching the Prom Night remake. The Prom Night….remake. It’s almost difficult to make a movie that doesn’t scare teenagers. So this kind of thing means nothing to me.
Then people started telling me positive things about it. Rational people whose opinions I trusted. That and the incredibly brief 80 minute running time made me decide to give it a go. It turns out that those people saying the nice things? Those people know what’s up.
Unfriended uses a similar approach as that Open Windows movie I think I reviewed for this thing last year but apparently it was not memorable enough to remember for sure. Though I remember that one breaking away from the “everything is happening on a laptop” motif whereas Unfriended fully commits by never once having the action break from this single screen. It doesn’t sound great but the execution is shockingly well done.
So our lead characters are all online chatting one night when the ghost of the school bully, who killed herself a year ago that night after a humiliating video of her went viral, starts to interrupt their conversation. I could put names but then I would have to look them up and I have 31 movies to get through so come on give me a break! Anyway the bully girl is only represented by a default Skype icon and can largely only type to the group as a means of terrorizing them, which doesn’t sound like a compelling villain but they really make it work.
Unfriended does get off to a slow start. None of our core group are particularly likable and I was not too invested in watching their nightly bullshit Skype exchange. The lead couple is bland, the “funny fat friend” is dreadfully unfunny, the bitch is cartoonishly bitchy, etc. As the pieces start to come together, it really felt as though the movie intentionally made them despicable as by the end, this became a darkly satisfying take down of a bunch of smug asshole teenagers. I was pretty on board with this approach.
Once the bully comes into play, the sense of escalation is shockingly well executed. Unfriended gets a ton of mileage out of its “one screen” concept. Nearly all of the exposition and backstory is not provided by characters spitting out forced dialogue, but by watching what our lead character (I’m starting to feel bad about not taking the six seconds needed to find out their names…) is searching for on her computer. Chunks of story points are revealed by watching what she almost types, or what she is searching for on Google/Facebook. It’s a really clever way to get around what could have been heaps of clunky back and forth between the leads.
Oh and murders happen! Gruesome ones! R rated ones! R rated horror everyone! You have to support it on general principle alone!
I think that about sums it all up right? Unfriended is way better than a movie called Unfriended has any right to be. Using its central concept effectively and moving along at a quick pace (after an admittedly slow opening), this is a quick and fun watch that kicks this fourth installment off well!