UNFRIENDED **** USA 2014 Dir: Levan Gabriadze. 83 mins
At the core of this stand-out mainstream horror film is the structure of a typical 80’s slasher film (the systematic slaughter of a circle of friends implicated in the death of one of their peers) alongside the timely fears exploited by the J-horror cycle of the early 21st century: high school bullying, suicide and tragic, vengeful young female ghosts hijacking contemporary technology. Echoing earlier films like THE COLLINGSWOOD STORY, THE DEN and OPEN WINDOWS, it unfolds exclusively through the language and media of today’s teenagers: dominated by a six-way Skype chat session, it utilises Spotify, Gmail, You Tube and Facebook as storytelling tools.
On the anniversary of a troubled student’s suicide, her peers are terrorised online by a stranger purporting to be the dead Laura Barns – who took her own life following the exposure of a humiliatingly cruel drunken video. With its antagonist taking the form of the ultimate internet “troll” – one that can’t be deleted or unfriended – and the nasty little secrets of the protagonists gradually exposed, UNFRIENDED deftly uses the restricted vantage point to entrap us in the same environment as the characters. With the suspense neatly enhanced by typical P.C. / laptop interruptions (including buffering and pop-up ads), the movie offers a bleak commentary on a culture where tormented young people have more “friends” in death than life and where everyone is accountable for casual everyday cruelty. A key line is “Everyone was posting…so we did too – but we were just joking…” Many took against the movie for its format and for its sometimes (appropriately) abrasive characters, but it’s effectively grim, relevant and creepy.
Review by Steven West