Posting Online Could Just Be The Death Of You – Unfriended (2015)

uf1I feel as though Unfriended worked much better for me than it should have.

Other than being a fan of innovative horror films (actually, I tend to be a fan of innovative films in any genre), I’m certainly not in its target demographic, and generally I find the online narcissism that is at the heart of this movie tiresome at best, and sometimes quite worrisome as it is reflected in today’s youth culture. Also, the simple concept of spending an hour and a half or so looking at a computer screen as someone surfs the web really strikes me, on the surface, as an unappealing idea.

Yet work it does, and I actually found myself quite drawn in to its central conceit in a way that was quite unexpected.

Part of the movie’s appeal lies very much in what drives any good ghost story / psychological thriller, which are the questions “What exactly is going on here?”, and “How much of what I’m seeing is actually real?”. The film also taps into currently relevant topics such as cyberbullying and its effects along with just how much of our lives are currently lived online, how much we reveal or don’t reveal about ourselves when we’re online, and how the lasting effects and traces of what we post online can, quite literally in this case, come back to haunt us.

I will say that I wonder how much of a lasting appeal Unfriended will have, since it is so much a movie of the now in the way that it reflects current cyber-culture, and how dated it might seem say ten or so years down the road, but as a movie that is very much rooted in the present it definitely takes advantage of all of the quirks and advantages and disadvantages of the way we currently experience the internet, including such things as untimely dropped signals and frustratingly long refresh rates.

uf3Yes, I admit I’m being intentionally vague in some places here, simply because I really don’t want to reveal too many of the twists that are in store for the viewer, as this really is one of those movies that I feel it’s best to go into knowing as little as possible beyond its basic setup. As a matter of fact, although as usual I’ll be posting the trailer at the bottom of this review, I really want to recommend skipping it, just so that you can approach it without any preconceived ideas of what you will be seeing.

There are a few things I do feel I should note, however. first off, there’s the issue of jump scares. yes, they do exist in the film, but they are well timed in a way that shows much more expertise than might be expected from the first feature from a basically unknown director.

uf2There are also quite a few disturbing images scattered throughout the film, and while some of them are associated with the aforementioned jump scares, there are also some that related to the YouTube videos that lie at the heart of the motivation for what unfolds during the film.

Finally, I have to give credit to the score and sound editing of the film. Again, this is one of those points where current trends are used well, as song selections chosen via Spotify do at times  enhance the mood of what is taking place onscreen, but also the underlying score is extremely effective in setting the tone throughout the film.

Simply put, as I implied at the first, I found Unfriended to be a movie that works much better than I expected it to, and I definitely recommend giving it a chance, even if you think the “found footage” genre (which it has been lumped into) is played out, as it goes just enough beyond that to be something unique and, while perhaps not completely original, enough of a twist on what has come before to deserve a look.

One last note: even as I was writing this, word came across my desk that Universal is already working on a sequel, which, though I suppose considering the low cost of creating this movie and the money it has made at the box office is inevitable, I was really hoping wouldn’t happen. This is a movie that stands quite well on its own, and doesn’t need a “Part Two”. One can only hope, I suppose, that the creators can find an approach to the follow-up that is just as innovative and well-structured as this one turned out to be. It seems unlikely, but I do hold out hope that whatever they turn out will be something beyond a quick cash-grab.

 

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