Cast/Crew: Directed by Leo Gabriadze, written by Nelson Greaves, starring Shelley Hennig (Debbie in Ouija) as protagonist Blaire Lily.
Plot: One year ago tonight a cyber-bullied girl killed herself. A group of friends get a Skype call from her account. Wow, that synopsis sounds horrific. Stay with me!
Thoughts on the film:
• Unfriended is presented as a feature-length live screen capture from Blaire’s laptop. It’s very odd, you literally watch someone browse around a computer (play YouTube, iTunes music, answer IMs, Skype call, googling, buffering videos, waiting for downloads!).
• These programs listed will date the movie but for the next few years it’ll be grand, and that’s where 99% of it’s revenue will come from. So good stuff.
• This surreal and unique presentation made it very cheap to make (or perhaps because it was cheap it make). The film had a $1m budget. I wish there was a bit of cash around for the deaths; that it just blacks out and buffers means it’s not satisfying, although it’s an acceptable cost-saving measure that meshs with the style fo the film.
• Since its set in the “real world” its more difficult to accept how someone can so easily manipulate & coordinate events & changing tech to be scary (e.g. can’t disconnect a skype call, turning on & off lights, messing with gmail etc) but seeing these people blindly accept downloads and click links from strangers, yes! It becomes plausable. It takes a while coming around to the idea that someone or some thing can remotely manipulate user UIs.
• It’s not great having to read a (supposed) teenage girl’s IMs. Lots of unanswered short, incessant posts, e.g. hounding her boyfriend to answer his IMs with this?????!!!! The length of time she spends reading text suggests she’s in elementary school.
• The ‘hacker’ is presented as an empty profile pic, although in one scene it turns to a hidden camera in one of their rooms – great.
• ‘Laura’ has the ability to take control over every aspect of the computers, inckuding playing unpausable ironic music! Like an “I hurt too” Spotify playlist.
• Why not just go offline? (i.e. rational idea) “No – I don’t know where my phone is!” Then the killer demands they stay online, or else.
• So Laura forces them play a game of “never have I ever” which makes the gang reveal their indiscretions, and important truths surrounding Laura’s death (who uploaded it etc) leading to lots of shouting and crying. Not admitting so ends in death.
• The screaming and shouting gets really unbearable and you’ll wonder why you’re still watching this Skype conversation. Everyone turns out to be amoral assholes of course!
• The film has a constant scary video distortion, why? Because Laura also has showmanship!
• Cool bit, the kayfabe video that caused Laura to kill herself is on youtube (the youtube link in the movie ACTUALLY WORKS!)
• Hilariously, instead of calling the police, Blaire opens Chat Roulette. DIED. A milestone in cinema.
• Sadly, it’s not a scary movie. You only catch quick glimpses of deaths so it’s not impactful. I get that the ‘unknown is scarier’ but this film doesn’t give enough to elicit that kind of response.
• Through it’s storyline, the film highlights cyber-bullying, and how difficult it is to ‘just unplug’ as these teens are incapable of it. The agenda isn’t pushed hard, but rather it’s the framework of the movie, and if they logged off there wouldn’t be a film!
• Unfriended brought in $58m so a sequel is coming next year.
Overall: It’s squarely aimed at teenagers, and watching someone browse their computer can get tiresome, but it’s a solid, unique gimmick. Not recommended, but good job making a low-budget movie stand out.
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