‘Unfriended:’ Movie Review

April 22, 2015 1 Comment

What’s more fun than watching yourself drag your mouse across the computer screen? Almost everything. Couple this with a interactive Skype chat with your peers playing a game where the stakes involve life or death, and your night suddenly becomes more interesting than cybersex (sort of). That seems to be the direction Levan Gabriadze and Nelson Greaves were going when they produced the film, ‘unfriended.’

It’s almost like any other horror film that tries to establish a first person POV with a digital camera (Paranormal Activity (2007), V/H/S (2012), Quarantine (2008), As Above, So Below (2014), Grave Encounters (2011), etc…) The difference with ‘Unfriended’ is that the set is entirely based on the desktop of a Macbook computer. I’m not sure this idea is entirely original, but I think its great. For one, it manages to appeals to the Apple Cultist and seeing everything that goes behind the everyday use of the OS X Yosemite (or OS X Maverick around the time the film was in pre-production).

Another reason why this setting is better because it gives the story a greater expansion of plausibility. Having all of the action take place right in front of your computer screen means that the audience can see and experience mostly everything (with some notable flaws, of course). This is different from the first-person POV scenes we are use to when a camera is involved, which, if done poorly, greatly limits what the audience can experience (along with that annoying shakey camera). Also, another problem with first-person POV cam films is that the story and the dialogue is dependent upon completely morons manning the camera filming things normal people wouldn’t normally film. Otherwise, the audience just doesn’t have a movie watch…

Now enough about my personal opinions about what style of cinematography is better. The plot is fairly simple. A group of high school friends attempt to have a chat online via Skype, when a unknown users attached itself to their private chats. Convinced that this user is merely a computer glitch, they ignore it. All of a sudden, the group starts experiencing some weird things online, such as messages they never sent to one another, uploading embarrassing photos of friends on their personal Facebook page, and also receiving an instant message from an account of a deceased girl…

As the unknown user sends a message to the group, it reveals that it isn’t just a computer glitch. It even goes a step further demonstrates that its supernatural powers over the internet, almost as if it was a “cybernatural (the original title of the film).’

The cast I won’t go too much into detail, because most of their work is unfamiliar. I also know that most people want to know the cast when describing a film; however I feel that some horror films work better when you have unfamiliar actors as members of the cast. Most stars tend to ruin roles because they are so high-key, they are incapable of paying low-key roles. Others are just such huge interpreter/personality actors(sees) that playing just a mere ‘character’ role is behind them, which doesn’t really work for horror films (especially one without a hint of a direct sequel. This was one of the reasons why I enjoyed ‘It Follows (2015)’ very much.

The movie centers around one main character Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman) a girl who committed suicide dues to a video of a prank that went viral (her only lines appear to be what is shown on the video. Along with her best friend Blaire Lily (Shelley Hennig), who seemed to be mourning her death, but for whatever reason, she is being haunted by the ‘ghost of Laura Barns (via Laura Barns Facebook account). Laura Barns has risen from her trash bin and is back from her digital revenge.

Again, I like the concept behind the set being the actual computer screen. The film combines all of the everyday uses the of apps people enjoy, such as iTunes, Safari, Facebook, as well as the coupling it with the frustrations of everything that could possible go wrong with using a computer. Except instead of blaming it on hardware/software failure or the computer literacy of the cast, we can simply blame it on the ghost, which makes it almost comical. The film, in its own way, actually teaches viewers a good lesson, regarding trust and privacy. Two very valuable concepts in this technological age, as well as very damaging if abused.

Final Verdict: C+

Its a pretty decent film and it has a very good concept, but as I said previously, it has notable flaws. I mentioned that the problem with first-person POV cams being very limited in their cinematography. Desktop screen cams have the potential to suffer from the same problems.

Considering that everything is being shot through a pinhole camera in a Macbook (using internet, no less), the only way viewers can see the action is if the cameras are set up in the right areas. This isn’t a problem MOST of the time; however, there are deaths that go unexplained due to the computer falling in a weird place or being set up in a strange angle.

The dialogue being streamed online can serve a huge problem. There are a lot of times where you just want to see the action, and the stream is too busy buffering the frame rate, or freezing the video chats altogether. It makes things more awkward than it really needs to be, which is what I’m sure the screenwriters were going for, but it could have been executed better.

To top this all off, the film is very short. Only an hour and 22 minutes of playing time. Considering the plot and the setting of the film, I wouldn’t really expect much else. At least the producers aren’t getting a big kick out of wasting my time.

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