For a movie that takes place entirely on a computer screen – and only utilizes about a third of the theater screen size at any given moment – Unfriended is a surprisingly flight, economic horror goof-off more geared towards mocking the import teens place on their minute affairs than wrassling up any real scares. Between five-finger games, teenage infidelity, killer computer viruses and a tragic case of pants pooping, Unfriended adds log after log to the straight-faced but campy fire resulting in a delightfully dumb, and occasionally laugh out loud funny, 80-odd minute horrorette.
Shelley Hennig is Blaire, a plain but popular teen. Blaire is tempting boyfriend Mitch (Moses Jacon Storm) with carnal knowledge of her neethers (she’s a virgin because teen horrors demand their virgins) via Skype – a video chat platform that will become paramount to the unfolding horrors of Unfriended. When Adam (Will Peltz), Jess (Renee Olstead), Ken (Jacon Wysocki) and Val (Courtney Halverson) are added to the call – much to Mitch’s throbbing blue balls’ chagrin – the group begins to receive unsettling messages from Laura, a former friend. The more unsettling fact? She’s suicide squad team captain, having gatted herself over an unflattering video that will later be revealed and promptly laughed at.
Suspecting that her account had been hacked, the group begins to realize that an anonymous user they had at first suspected was a glitch in their Skype call is indeed Laura as well. Soon, they begin to receive emails from Laura’s account and threatening messages from her Facebook. Either someone has accessed her logins and is playing a twisted game or she’s back from the dead, living vicariously through her online profiles. After all, it is the anniversary of her death. Spoooookkkkyyyy.
Death threats pay off and the scaredy teens die off in satisfying and well-paced fashion. Once Nelson Greaves‘ script hits its stride and begins to off Laura’s inevitable victims, he doesn’t waste time teasing us between. Rather, tensions mount to an satisfyingly uneasy level and end in bloody ax strokes at the appropriate hour. Conversely, as the teens see their friends turned to smoothies, former betrayals percolate to the surface and they become increasingly more concerned with their status as BFFs than their own survival. It’s funny stuff.
Director Levan Gabriadze works within some very risky restraints – like an orator with a ball gag – by limiting all onscreen action to the computer screen and the result spends an almost offensive amount of time on load screens and computer glitches. The screens fuzz out. Calls are dropped. Faces are pixalated as often as members in Japanese porn. Gabriadze’s attempt to simulate an online experience is a singular conceit and a potentially obnoxious one so getting it right is paramount to the success of the feature. I’ll admit that it mostly works. Emphasis on mostly. Had Gabriadze really ran with the final moments and taken the action off the computer screen for at least a short sequence, I think the product would have been that much better. As is, it’s worth queuing up for horror fans but is unlikely to win friends from the pool of uninitiated.