Director: Leo Gabriadze
Writer(s): Nelson Greaves
Studio: Universal Pictures
Box Office: $64.1m
Release Date: 17th April, 2015
IMDb Rating: 5.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 62%
UK Blu Ray release? Yes
Heather Sossaman – Laura
Matthew Bohrer – Matt
Courtney Halverson – Val
Shelley Hennig – Blaire
Moses Storm – Mitch
Will Peltz – Adam
Renee Olstead – Jess
Jacob Wysocki – Ken
Plot According to Google: One night, while teenagers Blaire, Mitch, Jess, Adam, Ken and Val take part in an online group chat session, they are suddenly joined by a user known only as “Billie227”. Thinking its just a technical glitch, the friends carry on their conversation… until Blaire begins receiving messages from someone claiming to be Laura Barns, a classmate who killed herself exactly one year prior. As Blaire tries to expose Billie’s identity, her friends are forced to confront their darkest secrets and lies.
Inertia’s Insight: We now live in an age saturated with technology. A wealth of information (and cat videos) is accessible at the touch of a button, at home or on the go. We are connected across several social media platforms, befriending people we went to school with that we barely shared more than a class with and now we share our lives, baby pictures and Instagram-filtered food shots. This connectivity, particularly with the youth, is apt to cause issues with bullying and provocation that we’ve seen explored in dramas on TV and in film for some time. With Unfriended, the filmmakers have explored the concept of a haunted technical world in which the devastation wrought by the supernatural has more of a personal effect than a physical one. Well, kind of…
Unfriended is seen entirely from the perspective of Blaire’s laptop – it’s found footage for the digital age, as the cinema screen becomes a Mac interface. iTunes is open, as are several Safari windows with social media and, of course (plug plug), the MTV website. The film starts with Blaire watching a video of Laura Barns’ suicide and the video that caused her demise. It captures our intrigue whilst highlighting the availability of such distressing footage at our fingertips. Interrupted by a video call from her boyfriend Mitch, she stops the video that will come to serve as the driving force behind the film. Blaire and Mitch’s attempt at a bit of cyber fun is interrupted by the beginning’s of an ordinary midweek group chat with all of their friends that becomes a deadly game of life or death.
The uninvited appearance of the user known only as ‘Billie227′ sparks debate over the identity of this unknown and unseen person. As they interact with it they find that all is not as it should be. At first thinking it to be nothing more than a prank, Laura Barns’ online account starts communicating with Blaire and posting intimate and private pictures of each of the friends from their account, dividing, testing and conquering their friendship.
The use of the computer as the interaction serves the narrative well – our online presence is what we attempt to make of our lives, the bits and pieces we are willing to show that we hope stitch together to form an ideal picture. Seeing Blaire’s computer and private messages shared with Mitch opens her up to us and allows for more of an internal perspective than a by-the-numbers horror film would allow. The only issue with this is that we are left with only a perception of the other characters from their reactions to the ensuing events. This doesn’t turn out to be too much of a problem as they are killed off relatively quickly and in inventive ways.
The video of Laura Barns that led to her suicide is dreadful, a complete invasion of someone’s privacy to the point of it surpassing bullying and almost becoming a criminal offence. But it’s this kind of attitude towards other people’s privacy in this online world that this film effectively highlights. Though they are all sad about the Laura’s passing, the tragedy for them is the way she died and not why she died. The video, to some of them, still appears to be funny, and their attitude towards their friend Val shows that the bullying is practically starting again.
A game of Never Have I Ever appears to be the undoing of them all, as the unknown “Billie227” pits them against each other, exposing their lies and dividing them until there remains only one. The revelation of who posted the video of Laura that led to her suicide is a surprising one, really sending home the message of cyberbullying and its long, negative impact on the lives of those affected. When Blaire searches for help on Chat Roulette, we see the extent to which our lives are so readily available to people online, and the lack of help given by those she pleads to demonstrates the fact that prank videos on YouTube and social media have numbed us all to real-life tragedies.
It’s an interesting concept to use Skype and a computer interface as the entirety of the film, an effective payoff that allows for some new and unique scares. The only pitfall is that it becomes tiresome towards the end – the limitation serves well until the point where we are left with just Blaire and Mitch. At this point you’d expect them to slam the laptop shut and run out to each other, or at the very least for an adult to come in and switch the light on, and so without the realistic expectations at this point, the concept grows tiresome, and isn’t saved by the very cheap and ineffective ending.
Inertia’s Ideal Score (* out of 5): * * *
- The film takes place on April 12th, 2014.
- The film was originally titled Offline, then it was Cybernatural before finally becoming Unfriended.
- Shot in one long take, in real time, with the characters on actual computers.
- All filmed in one house with all the cast members in different rooms.
ADAM: Fuck you, Blaire.
BLAIRE: I hate you so much, Adam.
BLAIRE: Mitch, do you hate me? Could you ever forgive me, I am so sorry…
MITCH: Blaire – I don’t hate you, I love you… I love you so much.
KEN: Uh-oh! Someone’s in their chonies! Someone’s in their chonies!
All images courtesy of Google
Tomorrow: Night #31 – Halloween (1978)