HOLLYWOOD—It has been awhile since we’ve seen a tense-thriller, well that is if you don’t count “It Follows.” Our latest supernatural thriller “Unfriended” takes horror to the Internet to scare audiences. Now this is a subgenre that has rarely been tapped into.
I can only recall one prior flick that attempted the notion of using the computer as a death trap, and that was “Feardotcom” which faltered in many places. It became way too hard to take the movie seriously in my opinion.
So where does “Unfriended” match compared to that flick, a lot better I must say. As it roots itself a bit more in the realm of believability. The tale revolves around several teenagers who find themselves in an intense game of survival after taking part in a shaming video that resulted in the suicide of another classmate.
I think the theme of cyber-bullying is important. We are seeing it more and more in America, and plenty of people are failing to recognize that such actions have dire consequences that can’t be taken back.
The film also tackles that notion of high school cliques, where popular seems to be everything. Those roles are reversed a bit here and creates an interesting dynamic when the ‘it’ girl Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman) kills herself once video of her drunken antics hits the online waves.
When the participants of the bullying decide to get together for an online chat, the fun really begins. For starters, the audience is left to question rather what they’re seeing is really happening. Implementing the technology of a computer and the imagery of an online chat room is nothing like seeing HD video; it heightens the suspense in my opinion.
Factor in that the narrative takes a closer look at the relationships of these so called friends and their cyber tormentor in a confined space is no easy task either. I’ve always said doing a movie in a limited setting only works if the narrative is spot on, and this movie while not perfect, delivers enough jilts and shocks to keep the viewer intrigued until the end.
The one element that works particularly well in my opinion is the audience has no clue who the culprit is. Could it be Laura herself, a friend of hers, or could a supernatural or ghostly presence be pulling the strings. The movie directed by Levan Gabriadze was previously known as “Cybernatural’ which I do find to be quite catchy to say the least. The grainy footage transfer, similar to what has been seen in low budget thrillers like “The Blair Witch Project” and “Paranormal Activity” places the audience that much closer to the chaos.
Its funny walking into “Unfriended” I thought have thought this would be the worst movie of the year, but I was pleasantly surprised with the scare factor and the narrative approach that was taken. It was a lot more fun than I thought, and further reiterates that the Internet is quite dangerous after all.