By Kathleen Fontilea | April 17th 2015
Be careful what you put on the internet. Unfriended, a found footage horror film was released on April 17th. The movie takes place entirely on a teenage girl’s computer screen. Blaire and a group of friends are having a video call on Skype when an unknown user appears and forces them into a deadly game of “Never have I ever.” The unseen entity seeks vengeance for Laura Barns, a fellow student who committed suicide after a humiliating video of her had been posted on YouTube.
I went into the theatre having low expectations for this film. It contained all of the one-dimensional cliches for characters that you can find in every horror movie. There is Blaire Lily, (Shelley Hennig), the protagonist and the so called innocent girl. There is Ken Smith, (Jacob Wysocki), the resident funny guy and computer nerd. There is Adam Sewell, (Will Peltz), an angry jock with a gun. There is also Val Rommel (Courtney Halverson), the stereotypical mean girl and of course, one of the first to die.
There were a few moments where the movie became too over the top and made me laugh instead of scream. The entity posted a meme of Jess Felton (Renee Olstead) choking a hot hair straightener with the caption: “SOMEONE FINALLY GOT JESS TO STFU.” There was a scene when Blaire tries to soothe the entity by going on FaceBook and frantically scrolling and clicking through photos and comments of her and Laura.
Despite it’s campy undertone, this found footage film felt authentic. The low budget quality enhances the realism of this movie. It looks as if most of the movie had been shot with webcams and every now and again there is a glitch in one of the character’s video chat. They used popular social media platforms such as FaceBook, Skype and Google. This type of realism and familiarity is unsettling and in many way terrifying. This movie brings up questions of what to do about cyberbullying and how to protect children from online predators?
The entity is never shown throughout the film. This is refreshing because we live in a generation where movies are packed with CGI and special effects. There’s nothing left for the imagination.Sometimes the monster is more terrifying when you can’t see it. It also stresses how one of the most frightening things about the internet is that it’s faceless. People can type and post whatever they please because they have the option to remain anonymous.
Although I do think that having the movie revolve around a single Skype call is effective and shows a lot of restraint and ingenuity, I think there were a lot of plot holes and missed opportunities. I wanted to know what the other teenagers were doing the night the embarrassing video of Laura was taken. I wanted to know more about Laura’s life. Did she have anymore blogs or videos? There were six teenagers in the movie. Were they all home alone? Where were the parents?
There was a short scene in the movie where Laura posted a YouTube video before she died. The video was in black and white, music was playing but Laura was silent. Instead of telling you her experiences or what she was feeling, she wrote them on slips of paper and held them up to the camera for us to read. This immediately made me think about the story of Amanda Todd, a teenage girl from Canada who committed suicide in 2012. Before Todd died, she posted a YouTube video called, “My story: Struggling, bullying, suicide, self harm,” chronicling years of humiliation, cutting and bullying at school and online.
The whole premise of the movie reminded me of Amanda Todd. Just like Laura Barns, Todd was driven to kill herself after embarrassing images of her were leaked. Todd was bombarded with hate comments and was shown no mercy.
I would of liked to see Laura Barns as more than a one dimensional character. Even when she was alive, she is described as a bully herself. Blaire mentions that she was having personal problems in a private message with her boyfriend but she did not mention anything other than that. I would like to have seen more of the humanity of Laura Barns.
I rate Unfriended as a C. It’s worth a one time watch.