If you're reading this review, chances are you're looking at a computer screen. If not a computer screen, then a tablet, phone or some sort of other electronic device with access to the internet. That's the thing about our culture today; we spend so much time plugged in, we rarely think of the fact that we're staring at a screen for hours on end at any given time. We have the entire world at our fingertips and can call anyone or access any information we want at any given time. With the popularity of found footage films waning in recent years, it was only a matter of time before we took the next logical step, presenting films entirely told from the perspective of someone looking at a computer screen. That's where "Unfriended" comes in.
The film is told from the perspective of Blaire Lily, a high school student who decides to do a dirty video chat with her boyfriend Mitch. Right as the call is about to get steamy, a group of their friends join the call, along with a mysterious faceless user named billie227. After numerous attempts to remove this person from the call, they decide it's a glitch and move on, all the while Blaire and Mitch discuss who this user could be after receiving mysterious messages from the Facebook account of their deceased friend Laura Barnes, who'd killed herself one year prior after a video of her in compromising positions was uploaded to YouTube. Things take a turn for the worse though when billie227 begins talking and threatening to kill each of them if they don't participate in her progressively revealing games that show just what dirty little secrets each of them are hiding.
Probably one of the best and worst things about "Unfriended" comes in the way the movie is presented. Director Levan Gabriadze and cinematographer Adam Sidman present the movie entirely from the point of view of Blaire looking at her computer screen. That means you'll see Blaire access YouTube, iMessanger, Spotify, Facebook, Chrome and Skype with the blinding speed of a teenager whose life revolves around the internet. It's an incredibly clever concept, tapping into a type of horror film that we've yet to see in our modern technological age, but being the first of its kind yields its own set of problems out of the gate.
First of all, the film's pacing is all over the place. While the last 20 minutes of the film are a gripping, tension-filled thrill ride that will make anybody sweat through whatever shirt they're wearing, to get to that you'll have to sit through an hour of mostly tedious busywork. There are long stretches in the film where Blaire does nothing but type with Mitch and surf the web and while the writing is clever and certainly well done, the film slows to a crawl and I found myself checking my phone or yawning waiting for something, anything, to happen. It needed a tighter focus, with more emphasis on the "games" and building character relationships in real-time instead of surfing the web and typing which ultimately served no purpose except to act as more exposition.
The other main issue comes from the limitations of the delivery. While the acting is incredibly competent, especially from "Teen Wolf" star Shelley Hennig as Blaire and Moses Storm as Mitch, because the film is told as a screencast, you only get a glimpse of each characters' personality. Because of that, most characters come off as two-dimensional stereotypes, with very little time for anyone to develop before they meet their untimely doom. I felt like I knew more about Laura/billie227 than I ever did any of the other characters and that in and of itself was slightly worrisome.
Still, even with all it's issues, "Unfriended" is a unique take on the horror genre that most horror fans should make an effort to see. It's a clever concept hurt by a lack of focus, but as the first of its kind kinks are to be expected. While the first hour is slow and most of the characters have trouble transcending their two-dimensional stereotypes, the last act of the movie is one of the most tense I've seen in a good, long while and is worth the price of admission alone. It's not the type of film that will appeal to everyone, as it requires a fair amount of patience before anything remotely interesting happens, but if you're looking for an interesting film that takes the genre in a new and unique direction, then give this film a look.
6.5 out of 10