Directed by: Levan Gabriadze | 82 minutes | horror, thriller | Actors: Heather Sossaman, Matthew Bohrer, Courtney Halverson, Shelley Hennig, Moses Storm, Will Peltz, Renee Olstead, Jacob Wysocki, Mikey River, Cal Barnes, Christa Hartsock
Surprisingly few exciting films have been made in which social media, online identities and the loss of privacy play a central role. This kind of theme naturally begs for a chilling thriller or horror treatment. There was the movie ‘Panic Button’ in 2011, about how the anonymity of the internet and widespread means of communication make it easy to carelessly share personal information and hurtful messages with the whole world. And how soon your entire personal life can be found and abused online. The result was a fairly exciting film with a message, but the form was still conventional. This does not apply to ‘Unfriended’, a small horror film with largely the same theme, but with an important distinction: the whole film actually consists of one take,
It may sound boring to have to look at the desktop of one of the characters for the entire film, but that is not so bad. It seems like an impossible challenge to keep this exciting, but because something else is constantly happening and a multitude of videos, photos, text and sound fragments are used, it remains interesting. In addition, it benefits the tension and the identification process, since on the one hand you continuously see the same thing as the main character and on the other hand, like her, you get the feeling that you cannot escape (by closing a program or the computer) and on the solution. to find a digital way. Together with the ‘friends’ in the film-long chat session, that is. That of course also makes it interesting: that there are five (and sometimes more) people to follow at the same time almost all the time.
In Unfriended, Blaire (Shelley Hennig) and her friends get the shock of their lives when, during their daily Skype session, a stowaway gets a visit from their conference call who proves impossible to remove or ignore. Through various chat programs, the stranger presents herself (by text) to Blaire as the ghost of an ex-classmate (Laura, played by Heather Sossaman) who committed suicide after an embarrassing video and very hurtful reactions to it (in which she herself was called to this) . Whether it is a genie or not, the digital appearance cannot be ‘unfriended’, removed from the conversation or otherwise blocked.
A ghost that makes a living in our modern technology or makes use of it is reminiscent of a film like ‘Ringu’ in which watching a cursed video tape could mean a death sentence. The same apparent impossibility to escape from it (with one exception) and the helplessness and sheer panic that this science entails, is also reflected in ‘Unfriended’. Yet the similarities end there, because the last film is a lot less effective in terms of horror. Where ‘Ringu’ gave a sledgehammer blow – and even made yours truly doubt whether he would watch the cursed video, which was included on the DVD as an extra feature – ‘Unfriended’ may be equally surprising or uncanny, but it really doesn’t make you spontaneously get chills when you start another Skype session.
As for these reluctant or more empathetic responses online, this is surprisingly subtle attention to the film. On the one hand in Blaire’s conversation with the supposed ghost of Laura, who doesn’t want to upset her. For example, you’ll see Blaire typing different types of responses, which she then pauses to think about before deleting them in favor of a safer, less hurtful response. You can say here it is mainly self-interest, but it does make you think about how quickly many people usually respond and that it pays to first think carefully about how things come across on the ‘other side’. Later, when her boyfriend asks (online, of course) about her relationship with Laura and her troubled childhood that Blaire points to him, she wants to reveal something painful in quite a bit of detail, but then chooses,
All in all, ‘Unfriended’ does a lot of good. Completely following one person who is only busy on her computer is kept fascinating by switching between video conversations, online background information, text chat sessions, musical interludes via music apps and so on and the fact that you cannot get away from this due to the apparent powers of its sudden appearance also makes it claustrophobic. In addition, technical hiccups actually increase tension, such as when during crucial murder or threatening scenes the image disappears for a moment or turns into a mash of pixels, or when you cannot properly assess whether something is a glitch or the result of the murderer. supernatural power (as in the video image of an immobile, non-talking person in a room).
The course of the plot is unfortunately not surprising, and the mutual conversations are not always interesting and the characters are usually downright unsympathetic. We also eventually learn relatively little about the friends in the conversation and the unfortunate Laura. Yet at least Shelley Hennig is an effective main character and the viewer can identify with her for a long time. You also want to know how everything really works, and who exactly is to blame for what. Unfriended is a film that you should keep thinking about for a while and is unique because of its form alone. Another film in this mold (a sequel or, perhaps better, an entirely new film) is certainly not a bad idea.