One week after I called for an end to the “found footage” film genre in my review of GHOUL, I was presented with UNFRIENDED. This is a new gimmick film and a twist on the “found footage” motif. The film is a computer screen and the plot, trite as it is, unfolds through a series of clicks and tabs. Cute trick; problem is this horror film just isn’t scary.
Looking at a computer screen when you’re not controlling the mouse is mundane. It’s like watching someone else play a video game; the very definition of a loser life. Luckily, the film is only 75 minutes long. Any longer and this critic would have found another theatre in the multiplex.
The film stars Heather Sossaman, Matthew Boher, Courtney Halverson, Shelley Hennig, Moses Jacob Storm (one of the dreaded three named people), Will Peltz, Renee Olstead and Jacob Wysocki. All the roles can be considered cameos, because the true star of the film is the computer screen. None of the characters is empathetic. While the lame story throws in popular teen themes, like cyberbullying, Skype and group chats, the script, penned by Nelson Greaves does nothing to make these characters likable. In fact, these high school kids are so obnoxious there is general euphoria when they die. They comprise a group of douche nozzles who do society a favor by expiring. Their deaths elicit laughter and applause from viewers.
UNFRIENDED, which was originally titled CYBERNATURAL, may be the first film appealing to web heads. No, I don’t mean Spider-Man. I mean those poor lost souls who have no social skills because they are constantly glued to a screen. Their entire life centers on social networks. Losers. Even still, UNFRIENDED makes a huge mistake. It shows the screen of a Mac computer. Mac users comprise less than seven percent of computer users, so already Director Levan Gabriadze alienates more than ninety percent of his audience.
The other problem is the computer is not an object of fear for those not in the Net Generation. We view the computer as a tool, much like a hammer. There’s nothing particularly scary about a hammer, unless of course Jason Voorhees is swinging it.
The creators of UNFRIENDED, Bazelevs Production and Blumhouse Productions, apparently had no budget for SFX. Viewers are presented with only quick flashes of the teen’s deaths, and none of them are very gruesome. There is never a shot of the ghost haunting the kids through Skype, save for an occasional digital glitch of the girl’s face superimposed over the characters.
UNFRIENDED attempts to be the first horror film for minions of the socially impaired digital age. Instead, it’s a non-scary horror film with a poor script and unlikable characters. Hopefully, this film dies a quick box office death and does not spawn a slew of copycat films. No one with an IQ above their shoe size, could sit through another film like this.