Unfriended DVD review: A horror movie that plays out entirely on a laptop screen. Facebook has never been more horrifying.
Back in the day, The Blair Witch Project became a household name despite its seriously slimline budget because it had an (at the time) cool and pretty original gimmick. We doubt Unfriended will ever achieve that level of infamy, but it’s definitely carved itself a new niche: movies set entirely on a laptop screen.
Exactly one year after their friend Laura Barns committed suicide, six friends are chatting over Skype from their respective bedrooms. We see events unfold on the screen of Blaire, who begins the film flirting with boyfriend Mitch before the others pop up in a ‘ohhh man, you guys were totally about to cyber’ bout of cock-blocking.
Almost immediately, strange things begin to happen. An unknown user pops up in their feed and, despite being labelled a glitch, soon starts to interact with Blaire. And when some decidedly dodgy snaps of one of the group pops up on another’s Facebook page, despite strong protests of innocence, it’s clear that the ‘glitch’ is actually Laura’s ghost in the machine.
While more traditional ghost movies follow a typically cliched approach to hauntings (objects moving, floorboards creaking and so on), Unfriended has the freedom to torment its cast in all-new ways. So as well as fiddling with their social media accounts, Laura can print scary messages on their printers, fill their Spotify playlists with creepy foreshadowing songs and even – horror upon horror – make the ‘forward’ button in Gmail disappear.
Okay, so this virtual setting means that actual scares are kind of thin, and there’s very little gore for fans of visceral horror. But Unfriended is full of imaginative little moments that are always fun, if not particularly horrifying. The ChatRoulette bit is probably the funniest thing I’ve seen in a movie for quite some time.
Unfriended also has to be applauded for tackling the growing issue of cyber-bullying, although the set-up of the movie means you actually feel sympathy for the murderous ghost rather than her hapless victims. Perhaps if Laura had been the cyber-bully instead, who then had the tables turned on her, it would have made the film more intense. But as it is, the film is still fast-paced enough to entertain, even if you don’t connect with the protagonists. And there are plenty of moments where the buffering wheel of doom acts as a remarkably effective tension device.
While Unfriended is entertaining for its short running time, it’s also the kind of movie you’ll never need to watch again. So if you’re interested in checking it out, we’d say give it a rent instead of a purchase.
One final word of warning: Unfriended’s trailer is one of those annoying spoil-pretty-much-the-entire-plot efforts, so if you think you might check out the film, avoid at all costs.