Movie Review - Unfriended
The concept of shooting an entire feature length movie exclusively from the point of view of one person's webcam is not a new one. In fact, just last year the talented young director Zach Donohue unleashed The Den on the world and I've kept my webcam covered ever since. So it would be easy to write Levan Gabriadze's 2015 film Unfriended off as some sort of cheap rip off, when in fact the two films couldn't be more different from one another, other than the actual format of the films. Unfortunately, while The Den was utterly terrifying and used the filming style to achieve amazing scares that stay with you long after the film is over, Unfriended fails to do the same. Instead, it falls flat, and never manages to rise above the feeling of predictability. Unfriended is still available in some theaters, and even though there are certainly some moments to recommend, overall I would skip this one.
A group of high school kids post an embarrassing video of a classmate, leading her to commit suicide. But on the anniversary of her untimely death the group begins receiving messages from their dead friend's social media accounts, and before long they find themselves trapped in a video chat room by a supernatural force that seems hellbent on exposing their darkest secrets.
As I said, this movie had it's moments. Neither writer Nelson Greaves nor director Levan Gabriadze had any trouble selling the humor of the movie, unfortunately though, the scares felt predictable and overwrought. Though a lot of the credit goes to the makeup and visual effects department for their amazingly realistic gore, especially in one particular scene featuring a blender. This a perfectly seamless use of practical effects, and the director does well to showcase it, but the constant blurring of the video feed offsets the impact of the violence and leaves it feeling a little PG-13.
The cast is stellar, despite the fact that their characters are completely unlikable from the beginning of the film until the final frame. But this is only a testament to their collective talent, as the ensemble convincingly embodies the indifference, vanity, entitlement and callousness that is typical of millennials. Shelley Hennig, Moses Storm, Renee Ousted, Will Peltz, Jacob Wysocki and Courtney Halverson each embrace their archetypal roles with bravado, and do well to keep the dialogue feeling connected and natural. But a using a talented young cast, a few clever visual tricks, and a fairly new film making style still wasn't enough to keep this movie from being instantly forgettable.
It's a film making style that I believe we're going to be seeing a lot more of in the coming years, and hopefully in the future we'll find stories worthy of telling with the medium. Sadly I don't think Unfriended is one of them, as it never materializes into anything more than an exploration of the style itself. The film is available in theaters, though this one may be worth skipping... but if you are going to watch it, you should definitely watch it on your laptop. Cheers.
- Leo Francis