Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Seventh Annual FMS Scarelicious October Movie Series #10: Unfriended

In Unfriended, a group of teenagers get together for an online call session on the one-year anniversary of the post-cyberbullying-induced suicide of a friend of theirs.  Almost immediately, they notice that there's an unidentified stranger piggybacked onto their session, lurking silently at first.  They try to hang up on him and when they are unable to, simply ignore him.  Soon enough, they are getting increasingly threatening Facebook posts and messages from their dead friend and before long, the urban myth that responding to a dead friend's messages online will cause your death, well, that myth becomes a reality.

Unfriended is actually a clever variation of the found footage/documentary style horror movie that has been afflicting us for the last few years.  The movie is entirely in real time and from the point of view of the laptop of Blair, one of the girls involved, switching from screen to screen as she clicks between Facebook, Messenger, Chatroulette, Spotify, email, YouTube, etc.  You see these kids in their FaceTime (?) feeds and whenever the streaming causes the video to freeze up, it starts to get tense since the viewer (us, the audience, and them, the kids in the online session) can't see what's going on.

I had just a couple quibbles with this flick.  A lot of what is onscreen is text (FB posts, instant messages) and even with my television, it was sometimes difficult to read - I suspect it would be clearer either on a large format movie screen or up close on an iPad/laptop.  And once the deaths started happening, the cause wasn't clear - was it the unrestful spirit of their dead friend or something else?  Unfriended isn't particularly scary - there are a few quick shots of brutal violence/death - but what is the most frightening is that it shows how terrible cyberbullying is and how easily someone's online life can be hijacked.  Makes me glad that the internet didn't exist when I was in high school.

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