Unfriended is the latest gimmick horror film that actually works for the most part. The computer screen POV gimmick lends the film an unusually awesome style and technique that makes it visually interesting, while the horror elements are left in the backseat, making the film feel uneven and lacking.
Leo Gabriadze‘s Unfriended is the latest gimmick horror film that actually uses its gimmick effectively, creating a unique experience that must be praised on some levels of technical merit. Unfortunately, the horror elements don’t stick, leaving Unfriended feeling like the least scariest Blumhouse picture by a long shot.
A group of friends are chatting on Skype, which may not seem like much of an odd night for most living in this modern digital age. But this night also happens to be the anniversary of the suicide of Laura Barns — a high school classmate that took her own life after an embarrassing drunk video surfaced on the internet and she was humiliated by all of her fellow classmates and “friends”.
Laura wasn’t the kindest of souls, but she didn’t deserve to be cornered into her own death, while everyone else got a good laugh or two out of the entire situation.
Now, this group is being cyber-haunted by someone or something claiming to be Laura and if they exit out of the chat room or don’t follow the rules that “Laura” is giving them, then they will apparently die.
Unfriended is different than most horror films, primarily because of its setup. The film is presented entirely over a computer screen, with all of the interactions happening inside of a Skype chat room, while characters occasionally pop up Google or YouTube to search for something else while chatting.
This gives the film a unique sense of suspense and an unusual amount of effectiveness on a technical level. It also works as an experiment that mostly pays off.
I was told that the film was also shot in one take or at least several long takes, which also helps make the film feel like one big coherent event.
Director Leo Gabriadze and writer Nelson Greaves do a good job keeping the story focused on its central characters and their immediate events, which keeps the pacing quick and the film’s reveals rewarding, though not exactly unpredictable.
Unfriended sounds like a slam dunk for the Blumhouse horror production company, which has brought us several micro-budget horror flicks, like the Insidious films and The Conjuring, but Unfriended doesn’t exactly fit the mold, because it’s not that scary.
I’m not that saying that as someone who has seen a lot of horror films and rarely gets scared, but instead I’m saying that as someone that loves getting creeped out by any and all sorts of horror films.
Unfriended‘s unique computer screen POV lends the film plenty of interesting situations, but also holds it back from really frightening you or even getting across an unsettling feeling or mood.
Sure, the deaths are displayed and detailed to a point, but most of the build ups and jump scares are shortchanged for some odd reason and left with very little time to breathe.
I’m not sure if this was a budget constraint or a result of how they decided to shoot this film, but Unfriended is definitely one of the weakest Blumhouse films on a simple and pure scare factor level.
It is however still a good film, but just very one note and as is. Some might like that straight-to-the-point approach and style, while others will no doubt be left with that feeling of disappointment.
Unfriended is an effective movie that takes its gimmick very seriously and that ends up paying off in a great way, but that also holds the true horror back from ever coming to the front lines. Unfriended is a unique experience that should be seen at some point, but not exactly one that can be called a horror film.