Hmmm... minimalist horror movie taking place entirely on a computer screen and cashing in on the "cyberbully" news trend. Maybe I've seen this one, maybe I haven't... I've got the time... sure, why not?
Today was certainly a good day to get caught up on what's happening in the world of horror movies... the string of PREVIEWS seemed to go on longer than the actual feature (so what else is new?) and almost all of them were brought to you by various "producers" of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY, SINISTER, INSIDIOUS and THE PURGE. Most of them Blumhouse (like UNFRIENDED). Let's see... a longer look at INSIDIOUS CHAPTER 3 than I needed to see before I actually see the movie... there's yet another exorcism movie coming out (THE VATICAN TAPES gives no indication of offering anything even remotely "new," but I guess I'll still have to give it a peek)... there's that remake of POLTERGEIST (which looks like it could actually be scary if you weren't familiar with the original)... oh, and there's a new Shyamalan creepout called THE VISIT (hey, if he's going back to low-fi shock tactics and not trying to top the latest sci-fi blockbuster, I'm even willing to give THIS a chance). I'm in good spirits. Bring them all on and let's see what happens.
Oh, UNFRIENDED? Yep, it all (well, except for one shot, I guess) takes place on a single computer screen with about a billion different windows popping up all over the place. A young lady named Laura committed suicide (on camera, of course) after being humiliated via YouTube exactly one year ago. Now, six of her "friends" are variously drawn into a Skype conversation that starts as a private tryst between our principals (I'm going to spare you the individual characters and backstories as they'd serve no real purpose in a review). But there's a "Skype ghost" profile present and it sticks around no matter how the others try to hang up on it. And then it reveals itself as the on-line profile of the dead girl. Do we have a masterful hacker or do we have a vengeful ghost on our hands? Whatever it is, it's playing for keeps and the annoying/humiliating "pranks" soon lead to quite real on-line suicides...
I didn't walk in expecting much, but a lot of UNFRIENDED actually works quite well. There's some decent suspense that builds from the initial annoyance of finding oneself unable to delete, forward or otherwise manipulate what pops on to one's screen, and the ghost's unsolicited musical selections add to the overall effect (though the soundtrack occasionally cheats by sneaking in some background music and jump-stings that can't be accounted for by any of the on-screen action). And some of the shocks are quite well-staged, too... particularly good is one in which the characters assume they're looking at a frozen image... until the vibrating cell phone starts to creep across the counter...
It's only too bad that things have to wind down with one of those "game" scenarios in which everybody is forced to admit their various sins and shortcomings in front of each other... "You did WHAT?" "That was YOU?" "How COULD you? How COULD you?" All in all, it's another revenge fantasy. Yes, cyberbullying and public humiliation are bad things that hurt people. And every one of these high school students has done something bad that has hurt someone else at some time or another... so of course each and every one of them deserves to die horribly, right?
Me? I was just hoping for some decent shocks... and I got some. Fair enough for a matinee.
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