In Unfriended, Blaire Lily (Shelley Hennig) is having a Skype chat with a group of friends, including her boyfriend. A faceless account joins the chat and claims to be connected to Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman), a former classmate who committed suicide one year ago after receiving constant online abuse. The abuse started after an embarrassing video of Barns was posted online anonymously. The group then find themselves being terrorized by this mysterious person, looking to find out who posted the video.
Unfriended is directed by Levan Gabriadze and almost feels like an experiment. The film is set in real-time and takes place entirely on Blaire’s laptop. The goal is taking advantage of the social media craze. Ultimately, this is an experiment that pays off because Unfriended is an engaging found-footage horror film. Gabriadze does an excellent job in building suspense. The film is engaging all-around as it grabs your attention from the beginning and does not let go until the very end. The use of social media feels organic with the story. In other words, it does not feel like a forced gimmick. Also, the film addresses cyber-bullying in a smart way.
The cast does a good job with their respective roles. The challenge of having to deliver your entire performance on a webcam may seem tricky, but the cast is able to overcome this challenge and pull it off. Shelley Hennig conveys the right amount of fear and makes for a capable lead. The film makes good use of its concept and finds other ways to depict the character’s emotions. For example, when we see Blaire frantically move her mouse from side to side on her computer screen or continuously message her boyfriend, we feel the character’s growing nervousness and her fear. With this attention to detail, the film is able to show off its clever side.
While the cast deliver solid performances across the board, their characters are rather generic. Each member of the group fits a certain horror character stereotype such as the tech guy, the jock, the innocent girl etc., so the characters feel weak. It’s really the performances that get you invested in the characters, rather than the characters themselves. Also, while the film is successful at building a creepy atmosphere, it misses out on having any memorable scares. You might be able to find one or two solid scares, but they fall short of leaving an impression.
In the end, Unfriended is an experiment that pays off, as it is a horror film that takes risks with a creative concept. What the film lacks in memorable scares, it more than makes up for by offering an entertaining experience. The social media aspect of the film is used well. The cast is great and the director successfully builds a haunting atmosphere. It may take some time adapting to the fact that the entire film takes place on a computer screen. However, once you overcome that, you are in for one entertaining ride.