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Unfriended Review


Completely taking place on a teenager's laptop, Unfriended feels like the logical evolution of the found footage horror genre, with handheld cameras being replaced by web cams, and really, with the anonymity the Internet offers, is there a scarier place in this day and age? The back story is set up in the opening minutes with, in a poignant commentary of cyber bullying, an embarrassing YouTube video that forced teenager Laura Barnes to take her own life a year earlier. When her 'friends', including Blaire (Shelly Hennig) and Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm), convene for a group Skype call, they find it gatecrashed by a mysterious user, who just so happens to be using Laura's account, setting in motion a deadly game where secrets are revealed and only one can survive.

Coming from director Levan Gabriadze and producer Timur Bekmembetov (Night Watch, Wanted), with help from current leader in low budget horror Blumhouse, Unfriended may seem like a disposable curiosity for the Internet generation. Thankfully, the pair have actually constructed a tense and genuinely unnerving modern horror movie, whose original name, Cybernatural, will clue you into what's going on. Admittedly, the conceit takes a bit getting used to (prepare for a lot of squinting at messages being written on Facebook and iMessage), but once the movie kicks into high gear, those problems wash away, and you'll find yourself glued to everything that unfolds onscreen. It takes a deft hand to wring an incredible amount of tension from an advancing progress bar, or make a Facebook notification feel foreboding, and Gavriadze has just that, keeping things tight and exploiting the capabilities, and the limitations, of the technology to great effect. Cameras glitch out. Videos freeze. Facebook refuses to co-operate. It only goes to further compound the sense of dread built up form the opening frame, and the further the story progresses, the more suffocating this sense of dread becomes, especially as a deadly game of Never Have I Ever begins.

There are the usual horror cliches present, as there would be. All horror movies work off a set of rules, the trick is to subvert them. I'm not saying Unfriended doesn't rely on jump scares, but it presents them in a unique way, screens flicking in and out, showing snippets of supreme violence (this movie has the most horrifying use of a blender since You're Next). The cast do a great job of conveying the horror of their situation, as well as the scary fact of society's addiction to technology. You may just dismiss the whole movie with "Just turn off the computer", but these kids are addicted to interaction. Early on, when they think their problems have being dealt with, they stay online, talking about their plans for the weekend as if nothing happened. It's a smart comment on how we interact in this new age, one that just so happens to have a supernatural presence messing with a character's Spotify playlist.

The one problem with Unfriended is that it has done everything it can do with it's premise. Any sequel will just be repetitive and redundant (o.k., FaceTime. But then we're back in shaky cam territory). So please Blumhouse, resist the urge to make an Unfriended 2. Please don't dilute the value of one of the most unique, unnerving, and best found footage movies in recent memory.

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The Movie Bit: Unfriended Review
Unfriended Review
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