Unfriended: Niche Film Has More Gigabyte Than Bark


The Plot:

Posting videos of friends can be fun. Other times it’s deadly. A year after Laura Barns committed suicide due to an embarrassing video being uploaded online, six friends are haunted by her seemly vengeful presence. With each being offed one by one, the clock is ticking with every passing moment. Having friends online isn’t the problem. Keeping them alive is. Welcome to Unfriended.

This is gonna be fun-Laura Barns

The Review:

When I first saw the trailer for Unfriended, I was a little more intrigued than normal given how many crap horror movies come from the studios, which are nothing but money wasters and time burners. Only with Unfriended, it looked slightly different. At least it could be fun. Maybe it, could it, at the very least, be worth the every inflating ticket price. I got a set; I’m doing this. So I hoped in the mystery mobile, grabbed Shaggy and the gang, and shot straight to the theater to solve this ongoing case of the murder of Laura Barns. Scooby had to stay home due to dogs not being allowed in theaters. Silly doggy, films are for adult; tricks are for kids. So let’s whip out those Laptops, fire up the Skype, and make some friends to see brutally murdered one by one as I review Levan Grabriadze’s little chatty, video splatty horror film Unfriended.

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The Direction:

Levan Grabriadze, whose credited as Leo on the film, directs Unfriended with focus and determination. While the direction is a hard one to discuss, due to the Gorilla style presentation of the feature, but its apparent after viewing the film that Grabriadze wasn’t treating this little internet ghost picture like some average, by the numbers, studio freight fest. This sucker has some out right ingenious scares that hit me like a right from Apollo Creed and left me without my Adreian. I guess the shorts really didn’t matter. I really didn’t expect much from the film but what I got was well worth the price of admission.

One of the biggest surprises is how director Levan Grabriadze chose to adhere to the film’s concept. While I prefer well constructed composition and the thought of a Fincher dolly shoot makes the possibility of dying alone seem doable, the discipline the filmmaker uses to get miles out of the concept is truly appreciated on this end. Grabriadze, whose only other directorial efforts include segments in Yolki 2 and Yolki 3, as well as Lucky Trouble in 2011, was bringing the goods to the States. Unfriended marks the first time the director has made a film outside of his native Russian surroundings. Another director would have cut to a few shoots of the main actress in her room, not from the small lens of a computer camera, doing other stuff in a possible attempt to flesh out the character. Not on Levan’s watch.

The whole film is just Blaire’s computer screen. You see her check emails, view Youtube videos, and Google mad spooky information. All while Skyping with the supporting cast, you know, her friends. What really makes the film fun and fresh is how the audiences becomes almost active participants in the film, figuring out plot points along side Blaire; We basically experiencing what Blaire is experiencing. While she’s clicking, we are thinking. Entertainment is always best when the audience gets to intellectually interact in some way with the project. Some make you reflect, Unfriended makes you detect.

The Acting:

The acting in Unfriended is spontaneous in tone but effective in its use. Almost every moment in the film has this lingering sense of spontaneity. As if this is really is going right in from of our eyes, from one screen to another. I suppose one could argue that’s the point of acting in general, to make the inorganic seem organic, but when you see the film I think you’ll get what I mean. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the dialog was improvised. Like an audible call by Payton Manning on the three yard line. Down, Set, Action.

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The main role of Blaire Lily is played by the effectively innocent Shelley Henning. She’s sweet, she’s cute but not in an overly risqué sexual way. She’s still sexy, and she didn’t do anything, or did she? All I know is I didn’t want anything to happen to her when the ghost shit was hitting the fanpage.
The rest of the cast is pretty decent as well. I laughed a lot more than I expected, way more, and was vastly entertained by how this core group of friends was both diverse but believable. There’s a point in the film where some of the principles are being pitted against each other through the revelation of secrets and the exposing of lies. This was a high point in the film and features both effectively tense acting and some beautiful sound design. Only drawback was the cast looked seven years older than they were portraying. Can’t have it all in the virtual world.

The Script:

Nelson Greaves’ script for Unfriended is shockingly scary and I welcomed every bit of it. While it is true that the film has a shtick, and that same ploy could have been presented without regards to execution. It happens all the time in our genre, only here we get some genuine scares out of concept. There are two moments in the film, moments I won’t dare to ruin for the Deadites of 1428 Elm, that I was actually impressed with how the filmmakers were presenting the story and how freaking working the move was. In all my years of reviewing horror films and I was very impressed. Let’s say I was a bowl of eating spooky crisp.

One really gnarly, as well as equally groovy, aspect of Greaves script is he’s more enamored and concerned with watching the key players here squirm due to Laura’s ghost rather than trying to see the ghost itself. Not giving much away, but we never actually see the ghost of Laura Barns. She’s just a presence that is screwing with these older looking than they are playing “teens”. She could be a hacker through most of the film, until it really goes down, and film is much better for it. Keep it on the characters, not the ghoullies.
It’s not that there are some deeper meanings to Greaves’ Unfriended script, and there really shouldn’t be, it’s just a decent little script that is focused on actually scaring instead of tirelessly trying to. Oh and don’t post videos of your friends in extremely embarrassing situations… or they will kill themselves…turn into a ghost…and kill you and your friends while you all Skype. See, there is a message after all.

The Verdict:

Unfriended is a welcome entry in our genre. It’s not a mind blowing experience, but it is an experience. The social murdia film is fun, but most of all, genuinely scary at times. I had a blast with the feature and I imagine most on my friends list wouldn’t find it hard to as well. If they’re not Unfriended first.

The Grade: B-