Clever, but never a spine-chiller

Despite clever execution, “Unfriended” doesn’t remain in the cache.

By Sara Almalla, Staff Writer

It was only a matter of time before the mainstream horror movie industry began to explore the perils of the Internet and social media. “Unfriended” reveals the uglier side of social media in a cunning, yet not entirely effective or frightening manner.

On the anniversary of high-schooler Laura Barnes’ (Heather Sossaman) suicide, a Skype session between Blaire (Shelley Hennig) and her five friends is hacked by a user they nickname “the glitch.” It quickly becomes apparent via the glitch that each character played a hand in their friend’s death. Queue the paranormal activity as each character is picked off one by one.

This is a movie shown entirely on the main character’s computer screen. But how much of a plot could the creators possibly fit into one computer screen? The answer is just as much as you would expect.

Through small, yet essential details, such as the various tabs open on Blaire’s computer screen or when she begins typing a reply and then promptly stops and erases it, more and more of her character is revealed in the best way the new generation knows how to express themselves—on the Internet.

Although the psychological effect it may have on the teenage audience is unsettling—the sound effects, such as the Facebook ping or the Skype ringtone are all a little too real and relatable—it would be difficult to place this movie in the horror genre simply because it does not serve the purpose of frightening audience past jump scares.

The grainy and pixelated Skype call never seemed so unnerving. When a character moved too quickly, their screen would freeze and glitch, leaving a frightening image of only half their faces—eyes and lips often missing.

Surprisingly, this movie was not a letdown in terms of technical execution. Despite it being entirely on one screen for 82 minutes, there was never a moment of boredom. The directors really took it is as far as they possibly could considering the circumstances.

The disappointment came from the writing. Each of the characters embodied a stereotypical horror movie persona: the stoner, the rich white male, the promiscuous girl, and so on. They were all flat and unlikable, leaving nobody for the audience to root for.

It was almost possible to feel more sympathy for the dead girl’s ghost than any of the “main characters”— gingerly placed in quotation marks because despite them all being on the screen for about the same amount of time, none of them seemed any more developed than a background character would be.

Despite the cheesiness of the film, it still manages to shine a light on the seriousness of cyber bullying in a creative and hypnotizing fashion.

2.5 stars (out of 5)

“Unfriended” opens in theaters April 17

Rated R (for violent content, pervasive language, some sexuality, and drug and alcohol use – all involving teens)

 

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