“Unfriended” isn’t groundbreaking. It’s just new enough to get by as moderate entertainment.
Movie Review #965
It’d be rather difficult to argue that the characters in “Unfriended” are anything but stock characters. If anyone’s done it, I’d be happy to see the attempt. “Unfriended” unfolds over a series of Skype conversations between characters whose names don’t do them much justice. I’d prefer to call them the Smart Girl (whose real name, for all intents and purposes, is Blaire), the Smart Girl’s Boyfriend, the Computer Nerd, the Trashy Girl, the Dumb Blonde, and the Black Sheep. You can’t go much further into stereotypes.
They don’t initially know it, but there’s also a seventh among them–perhaps the only character with much original groundwork. That’s the girl who has become a part of their Skype calls and seemingly taken over it. Even when she’s not invited into the call, this mysterious caller somehow latches onto the call like a giant tick. She’s also disabled them from hanging up on her. The caller tells the group that she’s Laura Barns, a teenage girl among them who was harassed so much that she committed suicide exactly a year earlier. The group wants to think that someone has hacked Laura’s account and has decided to play a sick joke on them, but it begins to become clear that this caller is actually Laura, and she is seeking revenge.
Kazakh director Leo Gabriadze has eliminated virtually all the stupidity that lurks in that plot, sculpting “Unfriended” into something surprisingly creative. The movie’s twist on the found-footage genre is most worthy of commendation. Up until the last few seconds of “Unfriended” (which seems to fly by as if its 83 minutes were only a quarter of that amount of time), we’re watching the events occurring on the monitor of Blaire’s MacBook. The mysterious caller doesn’t speak to the group directly; rather, she types her threatening, ominous messages to the group. We also switch between windows as Blaire opens up iMessage to privately chat with her boyfriend, goes to Google Chrome to visit webpages he sends her, opens iTunes to listen to music, etc. All the while, though, the fateful Skype chat is going on with Blaire and her friends.
For possibly the first time in any found-footage movie, we are presented with the otherwise standard Hollywood convention of changing angles during conversation. Gabriadze’s vision of Skype allows for that quite cleverly, as Skype shifts between which users it shows onscreen. Of all the embellishments that came out of the editing room, this one is by far the most effective. Seeing a little box in the lower corner of Blaire’s computer screen, as it shifts between the group’s many horrified faces, adds a great deal of tension to the narrative in “Unfriended”. It also adds another level of reality, the kind you wouldn’t expect to come of a genre as tried and true as the found-footage genre.