Unfriended movie review: the call is coming from inside Facebook!

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Unfriended red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

There’s little less compelling than a vague evil spirit with loosely defined powers doing random “scary” things as required by the script.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

A bunch of teens group-chatting online find themselves e-tormented by the evil spirit of a classmate who was bullied into suicide exactly one year earlier. They can’t just log off and shut down because, well, evil spirit is evil, and has supernatural powers and stuff.

Unfriended isn’t so much a movie as a monitor mirror for Blaire’s (Shelley Hennig) Mac as she tries to memorialize the Facebook page of dead Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman), watches the YouTube video that drove Laura to kill herself, Googles to find out what you should do when the departed try to chat with you online (“Do not answer messages from the dead!”), iMessages her freak-out to her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm), and Skype-confers with their circle of pals about how to get rid of the digital ghost that is bothering them. It’s the next step in found-footage: it’s Screengrab: The Motion Picture. It might be the first movie that would have more impact, not less, if you watched it not projected onto a cinema screen but streaming on a laptop… that is, if it were worth watching at all.

It’s a cheap sort of clever that director Leo Gabriadze engages in (and it’s not even all that original; Open Windows did something very similar), one that does not deviate in the least from tedious tropes we’ve seen play out before in countless supernatural-horror flicks. It desperately tries — and fails — to both create a new urban legend about the dead lurking online and then hijack that urban legend for scarifying purposes, but all it succeeds in is a salacious purloining of terrible realities about online bullying and teen suicide for would-be entertainment purposes.

Blaire and her friends are nasty, unpleasant kids who think they are “good people,” but I felt nothing for them and didn’t buy one bit — or byte — of their plight. There’s little less compelling than a vague evil spirit with loosely defined powers doing random “scary” things as required by the script. Sitting and staring at someone else’s computer while that happens is, however, one of those things.


See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Unfriended for its representation of girls and women.

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RogerBW
RogerBW
Fri, May 01, 2015 11:24am

I wonder whether this will end up appealing more to the ageing network-TV crowd that’s making CSI: Cyber a success: same core message, the Internet is a scary place and will kill you/your children.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  RogerBW
Fri, May 01, 2015 7:12pm

This is strictly for the easy-to-please teen-horror crowd.

Tonio Kruger
reply to  RogerBW
Sun, May 03, 2015 12:08am

That core message has been around almost as long as the Internet. Indeed, I suspect at times that it has even helped the image of the Internet as much as the more Panglossian P.R. it normally gets by increasing its popularity with the type of people who would normally not dare touch a computer.

Then again the recent hacking incident involving Sony has probably done more to revive fears in this area than any lame horror movie or TV show is likely to do.

Matt Clayton
Matt Clayton
Fri, May 01, 2015 2:45pm

It’s sad that a movie set in a very un-cinematic format (several kids chatting with each other online) makes it into multiplexes. It’s a lazy form of storytelling to say the least. I tried watching this, and I couldn’t get through 10 minutes of it.

I wouldn’t mind seeing found footage movies going the way of the dodo bird…

Danielm80
Danielm80
reply to  Matt Clayton
Fri, May 01, 2015 4:11pm

This film might be scarier if you watch it at home on your computer.

Kellyfergison
Kellyfergison
Fri, May 01, 2015 5:21pm

have you seen The Uppel Footage? It came before Open Windows and reigns supreme. http://releasetheupperfootage.com/

Anton Bitel
Anton Bitel
reply to  Kellyfergison
Fri, May 01, 2015 6:23pm

THE COLLINGSWOOD STORY (2002) came before all of these.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Kellyfergison
Fri, May 01, 2015 7:13pm

Haven’t seen it.

Constable
Constable
Fri, May 01, 2015 10:14pm

You know what would be scary? A horror film with actual character that we care about.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Constable
Sat, May 02, 2015 12:34pm
a
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reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Sat, May 02, 2015 4:04pm

I wanted the kid in that movie to die. At least the (SPOILER) annoying characters in this film were killed.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  a
Sat, May 02, 2015 7:40pm

You wanted a traumatized child to *die*? Really?

MarkyD
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Fri, May 08, 2015 9:07pm

The kid WAS incredibly annoying, but not worthy of death. That movie was ok, but not what I was hoping for based on the positive reviews.

David
David
Sun, May 03, 2015 6:40pm

There’s essentially two ways to do a film like this. The easier way is to make the audience sympathize with the avenging spirit, either by making them the main character a la the Crow, or by having a main character who was sympathetic to the original victim and seeing current events through his/her eyes. The second and more difficult way is to make characters who have done something horrible, like driving someone to suicide, sympathetic. This is storytelling 101.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  David
Sun, May 03, 2015 10:23pm

But no one is sympathetic here.

CB
CB
Fri, May 22, 2015 4:20am

Serial Experiments Lain did the girl-who-commits-suicide-haunts-her-friends-online thing back in 1998.

/hipster shades
/punches hipster shades off own stupid face

But seriously it did, and that was only the beginning for that show. So yeah, color me unimpressed.