Review by Adrian Lopez
I'm sitting here at 2:30 in the morning, nervously looking behind me. The uneasiness doesn't come from the typical bump-in-the-night. Rather, it comes from the fact that I'm in front of my Macbook, and my iPhone sits nearby. Unfriended showed me technology is to be feared. After all, I've done some pretty terrible things in my life. Who knows if someone's gonna ruin my shit right now.
Let's back up a bit...
On the one-year anniversary night of a former classmate, six high school friends hop on VoIP service Skype to plan the details of a concert they wish to attend. They're interrupted by said former classmate, which should be impossible because d'uh, dead. But what begins as an assumed prank quickly escalades as the stranger airs out the groups dirty laundry. With emotions running wild, each kid begins to seemingly commit suicide. It all comes down to an embarrassing and assumedly socially-crushing video of the dead classmate, with it's release lying at the hands of one the kids.
Can you believe this was all told on a Macbook desktop!? Using Safari tabs, Spotify, and Skype, Unfriended brings a completely new horror-telling format and they execute it pretty flawlessly. The entire 82-minute thriller will trick you, with very well timed application switches, into thinking the movie was all shot in one take. When you hear the concept, it sounds incredible stupid, but I was pleasantly surprised at just how well Blumhouse Productions pulled it off. Not to mention how well they knew their social media and online services. I always cringe when a movie does something with social media or online services because they never get it right. This really felt like someone was screen sharing with me inside a theater. I was also happy that the acting never suffered from awkward and amateur acting in so many horror movies.
What kept me in suspense most of the time is the former classmate, Laura Barns, and her desire to prove to our main character, Blaire, that her group of friends are not good people. She forces them to play Never Have I Ever, a popular drinking game that charges you with taking a drink if someone states something that you have done. It's in this game we realize just how terrible these people are and how they've done horrific and unspeakable things to each other, keeping it all a secret and continuing to be friends in blissful ignorance. There is a chord that's struck with the viewer as you being to recall all that terrible shit you've done and wonder if you could ever fall in the same predicament (albeit less paranormal, I suppose). It really makes you question your moral fiber.
While I did say the production company had a good grasp on social media and tech, there are a few things the tech savvy will notice. Like the fact that, when it was convenient to the story, Facebook comments would post to a picture or video in rapid succession, with barely even a second in between. Maybe if you're a celebrity... but the way Facebook trickles your updates to your friends would never allow for this particular scenario to play out like that. The messages shared among the group via Skype always ran on one line. When a new message was shared, the previous one simply went away. As we use Skype to record the podcast, I can tell you that's not how that works at all. When Blaire would switch over from Skype to iMessage to privately chat with her boyfriend Mitch, their entire previous conversation would vanish every time. Lastly, and maybe the most insulting: Blaire ends up sharing her screen with the rest of the kids to show that she cannot forward an email sent to her by Laura. She never turns it off as we get into some story where what she's privately seeing on her screen would be huge for the rest of the crew to see... but of course they never do and we are just to assume she turned it off at some point.
Horror movies like these are refreshing to me. Who gets scared at horror movies anyway? Unfriended is so close to being invited to the big boys table where movies like Cabin in the Woods, Babadook and, It Follows hang out, but misses the mark on a few common sense technology choices which always snap you out of the great illusion they're playing before your eyes. It's still, however, very entertaining and thrilling, and most definitely worth admission. If it's not scaring you, it's teaching you an important lesson in bullying anyways!