UNFRIENDED

UNFRIENDED

By Gary Murray

Starring Shelley Hennig, Matthew Bohrer and Courtney Halverson

Written by Levan Gabriadze

Directed by Nelson Greaves

Running time 82 min

MPAA Rating R

Selig Film Rating Cable

 

Every so often, someone decides to reinvent the cinematic wheel. They take the conventions of film and turn them on their ear.  Some, like Blair Witch Project, become a new way to tell a story in ground-breaking fashion that is copied for years.  But most just fail in the attempt.  The latest to break all conventions is Unfriended.  It is made by Universal, the leader of horror from the 1930s until today.

This is very much a film of the 21st century. The flick is told on a single computer screen, like it could be happening right now.  Laura is a high school kid who has recently taken her life in a graphic fashion outside her school.  The videos are all over Facebook and Youtube. 

But the story starts with Blaire (Shelley Hennig) on a sexy video chat with her boyfriend Matt (Matthew Bohrer).  Before we can see any nakedness, the two are interrupted by a group chat that includes Val (Courtney Halverson) and a few others.  Very soon, the half dozen kids notice that there is another presence in their chat room.  They are told by this unseen person that they are at fault for Laura’s death.  They are also told that if they hang up, they will die.  One of the kids tries to hang up and is instantly killed.  This is not a prank but some serious retaliation. 

As the kids are taken out one by one, the killer toys with his victims before he performs the final deed.  He makes them play a drinking style game that reveals different secrets about the group.  The unseen person who is manipulating the teens seems to know everything about them and seeks a very personal retaliation.  He seems to have access to all sorts of video and other proof of misdeed done by the kids. 

We also find out the secret behind Laura’s suicide.  It all has to do with a video posted by another in the group, a video that would be embarrassing to any high school kid.  This unseen Facebook killer wants revenge for the posting and admittance of the truth. 

Along the way there are some funny moments of situational humor.  More than once, the audience was laughing at the inevitable outcome that was to betake these flawed teenagers.  As they scream about a death, the audience laughs at them.  It is a macabre world in Unfriended, a world of cruelty and back biting.

The film is shot with the three leads in just about every frame of the film.  This must have been a challenging shoot for the young actors.  Most films shoot just a few seconds of dialogue in a take, not an entire 80 something minute take.  These actors had a giant challenge with Unfriended, something that Julliard does not prepare an actor to partake.  Also, the actors had very little to work with, just a single shot of them in basic close-up.  Again, this is a hard task to accomplish.

The idea behind these films is that people want to be scared.  Much like going to a haunted house, there is a primal release when one is put in a frightening situation. Kids can relate to all the computer generated thrills that an older generation may be lost in.  The reason that every horror film used young people is that “it could happen to them” which made the horror that much more relevant.   Today, computers are the basic communication tool used by teens.

The film is directed by Levan Gabriadze.  He gets some strong performances from his cast members and delivers a very different film.  It is a film not of the video generation but of the computer generation.  This is for the kids who do not remember VHS tapes or a time when not everyone had a camera at their disposal.  This is for the kids who will never remember Blockbuster.  It is a horror film for a younger generation, the computer generation.  I guess the next horror film will be for the phone generation.

The entire flick is a twist for the newest age bracket of horror fans bored with Scream and those Paranormal Activity flicks, those ancient films.  It is a horror/thriller for another younger demographic and not really made for someone over 30. 

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