The Horror genre has over the years been constantly trying to condense the visual narrative to become as emotional and personal as possible. And this has been done to varying levels of success. With “Unfriended” however, the inspiration has boiled over and left kind of a scorched mess in the pot.
The latest Blumhouse production which went through many title re-names, follows a group of friends conversing over Skype, and are then interrupted by an unknown user. This soon begins to show links to the recent suicide of one of their friends, and it appears that whoever this entity is, they are out for revenge.
If you take a look at the premise on its own, it does make for an interesting setup that could go in several directions. But unfortunately this is almost killed from the first frame by the fact that we see the whole film play out from a computer screen. That’s right, we see all the actors in Skype screens, and twists appear in other windows, and the joys of watching someone search for stuff. It is almost as bad as you are thinking it is right now.
It just crumples the pace from the very beginning, you get what feels like one of those fake paranormal videos you would stumble upon while scrolling through Facebook. Even though they try to keep things moving on screen, it still remains that you are watching a static display and following a mouse hover across places of interest. It shattered all my expectations and left behind the unappetising feeling that I was in for a rough ride.
And it turned out to be so. The characters are so deplorable that you just want to see them die as soon as possible so they can shut the hell up. The acting (for what is there) is in some ways good since it must have been a difficult structure to capture on camera. But they are given extremely little to work with except vast scoops of over-acting and not very effective acting on the fly. The designs to the sets are almost non-existent and are reduced to a blurred background in each Skype window. And the pacing it a mess, it would be easier to say that pacing was never considered in relation to this particular script.
But the biggest issue is that the movie simply isn’t scary. This is partly down to you wanting t see these bratty, ignorant, and horrible teenagers kick the bucket, but that intended scares are very poorly edited. Using the scratching screen interference makes it look muddled so you can never get the full scope of what is even happening. And unlike something like “Sinister” which made short scare scenes very effective, there’s very little build up or genuine pay off for these examples.
The very few things I can say I liked do go some way to stop this being a total disaster though. I liked the opening Universal logo trick. The spin to make the mystery user end up completely fuck around with the group gives some fun moments, such as cheery jazz play through the aftermath of another murder. It makes me wonder if this at some point was intended to be a horror-comedy, maybe if that was the case and the team devoted to it the end result would have been way more interesting.
But this is what we were dealt, and it is not impressive. The moments of interest do add up for something, but “Unfriended” ends up just being boring. And for a Horror film, that is the absolute last result you want to get. This is low budget film-making with low budget creativity. I would like to have seen this with improvements, but it is not one I can recommend unless you want something to help you fall asleep.