With a title like this, this film must be one of those teens-only, instantly-dated, and not terribly scary horrors, right? Featuring American 20somethings masquerading as teenagers, getting their just deserts after messing with technology…Didn’t we all watch this in ’99, only set in a large forest with squawks of “Josh” echoing through the trees?
After all, how scary could it possibly be if someone unfriended you on Facebook, given that in real life most of us are too busy to even notice?
The film is shot entirely on Blaire’s bedroom laptop in real time, as she Skypes her friends: her boyfriend, pretty-boy Mitch, with whom she intends to get mutually deflowered on prom night, and the good-looking Adam. They’re screen-sharing with a blonde ingenue with nice hair, who is constantly doing her nails when not cyber-flirting, and a chubby, confident lives-online guy, Ken (the excellent Jacob Wysock, vaping calmly away while his friends argue pointlessly). They seem to be the perfect bunch of smart students: beauty queen, devoted couple, classer looker and smart techie guy.
As the five gather around their electronic campfire, Skype-gossiping about gig tickets and arguing vapidly about each other’s sex lives, they realise their online chat has been joined by an anonymous user. This person, who just calls themselves “billie227” seems to know more about them than they’d like.
Blaire (Shelley Hennig) mentions to Mitch that it’s the anniversary of the suicide of their schoolfriend Laura Barns, and he sends her some links to websites about suicides coming back to haunt and then possess their friends. When their unwanted online guest won’t leave, however, the teenage techie-talk takes a turn for the worse as Billie227/Laura forces them to play a disturbing game on their sexual backgrounds, things start to unravel.
After doing a lot of hormonal screeching, they turn to Ken the net guru, who seems to be on top of the situation as things get out of hand. Will his cyber-solution defeat Laura’s beyond-the-grave cyber-psychosis? When it doesn’t, they ring the police, and in probably the film’s creepiest moment, they realise she is controlling the emergency lines as well. There’s also smart use of music too when their unknown tormentor decides to block out their panic by playing chirpy music over the terrified screeching to drown it out.
Echoing Sanchez’s mockumentary, Unfriended is just slightly too in love with its own clever concept, and its opening sequence is slightly too slow, as the flirting and bickering takes place on screen in real-time, rather than on-cam. Similarly, the unease comes from seeing the protagonists attack each other, rather than unite, to stop their enemy picks them off one by one. Shot in “real time”, (and apparently entirely in one house) the film accurately depicts all the vapid gossip and mundane backchat of real life.
At times it can get a bit too Blair Witch, with lots of pseudo teenage actors screeching hysterically at each when the gadgets they’re playing with go quite spectacularly wrong, but it’s still more than averagely smart. Hennig is particularly good as the supposed peacemaker and good-girl figure of the group, as Mitch (Moses Storm) and Adam (Will Peltz) start falling apart.
There are plotholes (why the teens don’t just ring their parents to come home to rescue them, and how does a spirit manages to break open their front doors?)
Writer Nelson Greaves has taken the slightly tired theme of supernatural evil coming out of your household technology, and added a theme on the unpredictable results of cyberbullying, and how one person’s moment of teenage madness posted online can have horrific consequences. Although a bit too easy to classify as “Blair Witch for Generation Zed”, Unfriended is still entertainingly disturbing.
Nina Romain is living proof that small children shouldn’t be taken trick-or-treating in Alabama in the 1980s – they tend to end up obsessed with the creepier side of Halloween! Her horror shorts tend to be shot half in the seedier side of Los Angeles and half in the darker side of the UK. She’s spending this Halloween dressed as a creepy clown at various London horror events and planning to eat her own weight in festive treats. You can find her on www.girlfright.com and IMDB.