Though the dead can’t speak, in the movie “Unfriended,” a group of teenagers find themselves haunted in an online chat room by the account of their dead friend.
The Cinematic Arts Commission and Hurricane Productions hosted a screening at 9 p.m. Tuesday at Cosford Cinema before the film opens nationwide on Friday.
Directed by Levan Gabriadze, “Unfriended” begins by distorting the Universal Studios logo, as if a slow Internet connection were disrupting the movie. This stylized choice persists throughout the film, from the plot to the cinematography.
The story takes place solely on the computer of one of the protagonists, Blaire Lily (Shelley Hennig). The film begins with Blaire watching a video about the suicide of Laura Barns, a former classmate who took her life a year ago.
Blaire is soon joined in an online chat room by five of her classmates, who apparently have nothing else to do on a weekday besides talking on Skype. During the conversation, a seventh member joins their Skype call: Laura.
Laura’s account forces Blaire and her friends to play a deathly game where the loser and anyone who hangs up on the conversation, dies.
The friends learn that they have all betrayed each other in some way, and that they all contributed to Laura’s suicide.
“Unfriended” is targeting the phenomenon of cyberbullying, but unlikeable characters and distracting filmmaking techniques undermine this thematic message.
On a pettier note, they use texting abbreviations even though they have a full keyboard, and they use hackneyed lines like, “You’re really sexy when you’re violent.”
As far as trying to explain the ghostly phenomenon, the only answer the movie ever gives is from the first link on Google: unexplainedforums.net.
In between long pauses in conversation on Skype and emotional breakdowns, the video constantly glitches as if everyone had a bad Internet connection. The glitches conveniently cover the cuts in scenes and have the added bonus of prolonging suspense.
During our pre-screening, audiences were laughing more than screaming because of these long pauses.
To its credit, “Unfriended” is scary. The mystery shrouding the fates of the teenage protagonists paired with the blurry, grotesque scenes may contribute to some nightmares.
Overall, “Unfriended” offers few answers to its own questions. The theme of cyberbullying’s negative consequences prevails, but viewers will leave feeling as though they have just watched a movie they would rather forget – or unfriend.
Featured photo courtesy bakuku.net.