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Movie Review: Unfriended

Unfriended’s chilling trailer, which made its way through Twitter in its early days, had plenty of anticipation surrounding it. The film did it justice, but as expected, only at a superficial, banal level.

Told through a screencast of high-schooler Blaire Lily’s (Shelley Hennig) laptop screen, the film opens with a graphic video of Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman) shooting herself fatally at a basketball court.

Prior to her suicide, a humiliating YouTube video of Barns inebriated at a party had been anonymously uploaded on YouTube. The vicious comments on the video led Barns to end her life.

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Lily watches the video of Barns’s suicide on the anniversary of her death, after which she Skype calls her clique of friends; an annoying, flippant bunch of teenager stereotypes whose speech might grate on anyone born before 1990. An unknown ‘billie227’ joins their call. Assuming it’s a glitch, they attempt to expel the phantom user. One of Lily’s friends even mass e-mails the group anti-virus software to run on their computers.

As their luck would have it, ‘billie227’ is found out to be Barns’s Skype username. They’re pit against each other in a bid to stay alive as ‘billie227’ (or Barns) plays wicked games with the six friends. Secrets are forced out of each, exposing the betrayal and twisted crimes they committed.

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Especially nerve-wrecking was seeing Lily’s boyfriend, Mitch (Moses Storm), find out about her betrayal through an incriminating video of her. Lily also goes through a mental dilemma to expose the original uploader of the video of drunk Barns.

The film culminates in a macabre version of ‘Never Have I Ever’, with each character meeting an untimely end in some inventively gory ways. Had they stayed away from electrical appliances and firearms, the characters could have saved themselves a lot of pain.

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Director Levan Gabriadze excelled in making Unfriended realistic, especially to its target audience. He features hallmarks of an average teenager’s laptop, such as TV-show file folders, Forever 21 e-store hyperlinks and Spotify. By showing how the ill-fated friends were tormented via Gmail, Spotify, Facebook Messenger and Instagram, Gabriadze brought the issue of bullying to the forefront by giving it the Generation Y twist.

However, we felt Gabriadze could have pushed a lot more buttons with this topic, given how cyber-bullying has become a rising cause of teenage suicide in recent years. Diluting the film’s premise with black humor and focusing solely on the main cast might have worked against the film’s potential.

A tongue-in-cheek view on social media disguised as a rough-edged thriller, Unfriended was an exercise in being on the edge of your seat for slightly over an hour. However, the lesson we wished that could have been fleshed out in a more concrete manner? Don’t bully.

 

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

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Information:

Cast: Heather Sossamon, Will Peltz, Courtney Halverson, Shelley Hennig, Moses Storm, Renee Olstead

Director: Levan Gabriadze

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Runtime: 83 minutes

Release date: 30 April 2015

 

Photos courtesy of: Universal Pictures