A variation on the found-footage genre, this latest horror is set in real-time on the main character’s computer screen. So at least this attempts to offer us something a bit different to a tired and overrun genre. But is it any good?
A year after their classmate Laura committed suicide following online bullying, Blaire (Shelley Hennig) and friends are Skyping each other when they notice an anonymous user under the name billie227 is listening in on their conversations. Their attempts to get rid of the user don’t work, and the user starts writing Facebook messages from Laura’s account. Soon the unknown user starts revealing the groups secrets and it becomes apparent that billie227 wants to hurt everyone involved in Laura’s death.
It’s an interesting concept at the centre of Unfriended, having all the action on one person’s computer. What could have been tedious actually works quite well. The film starts off slow as we are introduced to the main characters, none of who are particularly likeable. Even the victim Laura seems to have been a bully before a vicious video of her was leaked. But this is a film more about the concept than character. It also manages to keep your attention as you try to work out exactly what they did to Laura and what billie227 is planning to do to them. There are some good deaths and scares involved too. There’s some dark humour to help relief some of the tension considering it goes to some dark places with subjects such as teen suicide and bullying.
Some may say the real horrors in the movie is how the characters treated Laura and each other over the internet, with the focus on cyber-bulling. Posting abusive comments and videos on social media is something that has grown over the past couple of years so it’s good to see a film that’s directed mainly at teenagers address this issue. The teens here feel realistic with their actions, believeing they can say whatever they want on the internet and not thinking about the consequences. I don’t expect it will have much effect on it’s intended audience but it’s still good to see a horror film reflecting what teenagers are currently up to (except for the ghost part-probably) and how it has adverse affects on others.
It’s thankfully short enough not to outstay it’s welcome or make it’s format become too gimicky. Sometimes being stuck on the screen does feel limiting although the film tries to show different mediums such as facebook, skype, google and even chatroulette. Unfortunately with having characters so unlikeable it made it hard to care if they lived or died. The constant explaining technology terms to Blaire is also annoying, I know they have to explain certain things to the audience but it was a bit clunky.
Rating 3/5 – a twist on found-footage horror that takes a simple idea and provides some decent scares and food for thought