An innovative mystery found-footage cyber-whodunit for The Social Media Age groundbreakingly shot all-online through one girl’s computer screen – with good suspense escalation, strong lead actress, & critique of ‘internet perfection’. 8/10.
Plot Synopsis: One night, while teenagers Blaire, Mitch, Jess, Adam Ken and Val take part in an online group chat session, they are suddenly joined by a user known only as “Billie227.” Thinking it’s just a technical glitch, the friends carry on their conversation… until Blaire begins receiving messages from someone claiming to be Laura Barns, a classmate who killed herself exactly one year prior. As Blaire tries to expose Billie’s identity, her friends are forced to confront their darkest secrets and lies.
*Possible spoilers ahead*
Review: Blumhouse’s newest foray into the world of the internet Unfriended is one of the most refreshing (and innovative) horror products to come out the genre in I don’t know how long. A mystery found-footage paranormal thriller boasting an ambitious (and mostly delivered-upon) premise of bringing scares to an entirely new generation – through where they live most, Leo Gabriadze’s film impressively expands upon the less-is-more idea of Blair Witch Project (and best of the Paranormal Activity Films) with a script and product that hits hard if you grew up with these networks and have engrained them into a part of daily life like Gen X/Millennials have.
The film’s shot mechanism is groundbreaking unfurling the (in-many-ways classic) whodunit pseudo-murder mystery through one girls’ screen-shared computer seemingly continuous in editing with the appearance of it happening in real-time in a single shot. The suspense escalation is proper and old-fashioned, brilliantly sowing the seeds of dissent and chaos with the (seemingly-omnipotent) (perpetrator – to avoid spoilers) playing on human nature’s dark secretive sides and making the group turn on each other and their own best friends.
The acting is surprisingly good for this low-budget a home-focused horror film – you actually feel like these are realistically normal teens going through this and not once did I feel it was a charade which is impressive considering how easily this could have been the case – led by a *stellar* performance by lead actress Shelley Hennig that carries the film (love the final girl twist at the end too subverting common genre expectations). Pacing is also light on its feet and rides nicely across its brisk 1hr22min runtime with never-a-dull-moment I was checking my watch.
If anything, it could’ve spent another 5-10 min on character backstory/fleshing out to really make the characters seem more real (and rewritten a couple of the film’s strange quirks like the whole “you’re sexy when you’re violent” schtick and asking random webchat strangers in Finland to save them from a malevolent and powerful (perpetrator) – not a huge detracting problem overall. Plus, the film acts as a depth-full critique of cyberbullying (needed) and the ‘perfect’ facade/act people put on the internet dissonantly hiding their demons and dark acts lurking beneath the surface that this film brings to the limelight.
Overall, Unfriended is a thrillingly brilliant-idea horror/thriller as evocative and psychologically tormenting as Scream was for its time, with an impressive found-footage style shot all through a girl’s screen-shared computer that I don’t think it’s possible to not haunt & entertain you if you grew up with or own any social network. Blumhouse is starting to put together an impressive portfolio of fresh-idea horror flicks here – Keep ’em coming.
Official CLC Score: 8/10