The supernatural, cyber thriller Unfriended (2014), directed by Levan Gabriadze and written by Nelson Greaves, had its wide-release, theatrical debut on April 17th, 2015. The Universal Pictures, Blumhouse Production film is anything but underground. Unfriended is the epitome of a mainstream horror film; the film was heavily advertised and designed to fit the widest possible demographic, which is anyone who uses modern technology (i.e. laptops, Facebook, video chat). At first glance, the concept behind the film seems rather trivial. However, the excessive use and dependence on technology, which is a fairly new development within our culture, is quite deserving of its fair share of cautionary tales. Unfriended is absolutely a cautionary tale for the digital age. The question is, was the film worth watching?
As the film begins, we are introduced to six main characters; all of whom are friends and, for the film’s sake, connected by one important incident; the suicide of classmate and friend, Laura Barns. Laura Barns, played by Heather Sossaman, was beautiful and popular, but plagued by a viral video of her behavior while overly intoxicated one night at a party. The video, caught by a classmate’s camera phone, depicts Laura so inebriated she eventually winds up face down on the ground, with her genitals exposed and what seems to be her own feces all down the backs and insides of her thighs. Once the video is posted and goes viral, Laura takes her own life as a result of the embarrassment and cyber bullying inflicted by her fellow classmates. This part of the narrative was extremely relevant and effective, because we’ve all heard of or personally know victims of cyber bullying. Unfortunately, this is an extremely real issue and for that reason I can’t say the film was a complete waste. However, for almost every other reason, this film was pretty awful.
Other than the motive behind their friend’s suicide, nothing else about this story was effective or believable. The audience was supposed to believe and assume that on the one year anniversary or Laura Barn’s death, she was haunting and murdering her old friends via video chat. Visually, some of the deaths were decently graphic and the anticipation leading up to each death kept you at the edge of your seat. Unfortunately, the good was not enough to outweigh the bad. The acting and the characters were excruciating at times; the leading role of Blaire, played by Shelley Hennig, was extremely annoying. Certain performances were better than others, but these characters were overall unenjoyable to watch.
Overall, Unfriended was actually slightly better than I was expecting, because I had virtually no positive expectations of this film. Some of the deaths were graphic and the film did a great job of building anticipation and suspense. The most positive thing about this film was the part of the narrative/message dedicated to anti-cyber bullying, because that is a very real issue in our society at the moment. However, the few decent parts of the narrative and a couple eerie death scenes were just not enough to make this film good or interesting. I do not recommend seeing Unfriended while it’s in theaters, it might be worth a watch via Redbox or Netflix.