SXSW 2015: “Unfriended” – Review by MovieManMenzel

unfriended movie

A different take on the world of cyber bullying.

With a silly title like Unfriended, I am sure many will go into the film expecting something completely different than what they are actually going to get. I went into Unfriended expecting a crappy low budget horror film about teens acting like idiots online and while those elements are there during the first 10-15 minutes, the direction the film takes after that is much different and darker than I expected.

The film opens on a YouTube video of a girl named Laura Burns committing suicide. The film quickly changes directions as we are introduced to Blaire (Shelley Hennig) and her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm) who are having a Skype conversation about having sex on prom night. At this very moment, I began to roll my eyes and think to myself, “Oh no, is this really what the next 80 minutes is going to be like?” Luckily for me, it wasn’t like that. There is a lot more to this story than teenagers simply goofing around online.

Unfriended examines the world of cyber bullying from a unique perspective that I have yet to see. We are introduced to Blaire, Mitch, Adam, Jess, and Val knowing very little about them but as the film unfolds we begin to learn about their dark secrets and lies. The film is paced well and while some might see it as a slow burn especially for a horror film, I personally loved the pacing as it allowed the story to build and make the audience question what was going on. There are some jump scares because for some unknown reason, no modern day horror film can leave them out but luckily more of the film relies on the atmosphere and concept to deliver the suspense.

It is hard to really discuss this film without ruining it so I will try to briefly touch on a few things about the actual film. There really isn’t too much to discuss in terms of direction other than that there five computer screens, five friends Skyping, and five different bedrooms in the background. Instead, Unfriended focuses on the story and the atmosphere it creates. We have seen so many films about bullying over the past few years from documentaries to feature length film but never from this angle. I loved what Unfriended did with that topic. While we as audience members are watching cyber bullying occur on-screen, the perspective from which the story is being told, makes us want it to continue so we can see what happens next.

With all that being said, Unfriended is not your standard horror film. In fact, I would really consider it more of a whodunit thriller than a horror flick. It takes the idea of using modern technology to bully someone and runs with it. The entire film is told through Skype Calls, Facebook Messaging, iMessage Chats, YouTube, GMail, Instagram, and Google searches. The end result feels as if you are watching it happen right in front of your very eyes instead of on film.

All the actors are on-screen in their little Skype boxes for the vast majority of the film. They go off screen here and there to type one another in a private message but the film feels like it is being told in a single take. I liked that idea and felt like it really helped build up the concept a lot. I can’t really say much about the acting other than I felt that the entire cast did a sold job playing a specific type of teenager. I thought as the film went on their performances got stronger simply because what was happening in the story required a certain reaction from each actor. I think out of all the actors in the film, the only standout was Shelley Hennig who really brought her A-game and a lot of the film relied on her. I can really see her going places in the near future.

What I think many will not like about the film is the fact that nothing in the story is fully explained. I am sure a lot of people will be like “how did that happen?” but I really dug the mystery behind the story. I think its great to leave some things left unexplained in film. Unfriended has a simple concept and it just runs with it. The ending also worked for me but again I can see others moaning about it. The ending left you thinking and left some questions unanswered. Let me just say that while the ending leaves things open, there cannot be a sequel. So, regardless of whether you love this film or you hate this film, we can all be thankful that they won’t be able to milk it into a franchise.

All in all, I think Unfriended serves as a wake up call to a generation that uses social networking to bully others. It showcases how dangerous the internet can be and the silly things we do online that we share with others and never think about. Throughout the film, it shows the harsh reality of how our society isn’t afraid to post and upload their lives to the internet while showing that everyone has their fair share of secrets. The film’s third act which involves a game of “Never Have I Ever” is intense and really packs a great punch. I think for those looking for a change of pace from the typical horror film fare will really appreciate this film, I know I did.

Unfriended was definitely a good way to kick off SXSW 2015.

MovieManMenzel’s final rating is a 8 out of 10.

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