If you spend much of your day staring at a computer screen, you’ll either be put off by the new horror film Unfriended or sucked in by its user-friendly familiarity.
Set in Fresno, CA — or rather in a variety of semi-sloppy bedrooms in Fresno — Unfriended is an unapologetic gimmick movie that gets much further than you might have thought possible considering that the movie confines itself to a single computer screen.
For 27 years, Robert Denerstein was the film critic at The Rocky Mountain News. Read more of Robert's reviews at Denerstein Unleashed.
The characters in Unfriended — six teen-agers engaged in a Skype call — simultaneously chat, send messages to one another, look stuff up on Google and show their dexterity at multitasking.
The amazing thing about the movie (which does, I think, eventually wear out) is that director Levan Gabriadze and screenwriter Nelson Greaves actually keep you watching: Of course, they toss sexual tensions, jealousy, teen posturing, tech savvy and horror into the mix.
If you’re looking to be scared out of your mind, you may be disappointed by what amounts to a horror sketch that takes place in real time, and which eliminates the need for great camera work. We are, after all, looking at Skype images on screens.
Oh yeah, the story:
It seems that a teenager named Laura committed suicide after being humiliated by the posting of an on-line video that went viral.
Early on, a stranger horns in what appears to be a typical on-line session of the movie’s teen ensemble. The stranger says she’s Laura, the kid who committed suicide.
This ghost in the machine is out for vengeance and even the most technically proficient of these young people can’t get rid of her.
The way in which Laura (or whoever is behind all this) arranges for these youngsters to be knocked off are decidedly low-tech and not particularly inventive, even when judged by low-budget horror movie standards.
OK, I’ve told you the kids, who may be implicated in Laura’s humiliation, are knocked off, but this information only can be regarded as a spoiler if you expected the departed Laura to provide her former classmates with links to scholarly articles on cyberbullying.
Credit director Gabriadze with being smart enough to hold his movie to an 82-minute length and for daring to do this at all. I’ve read about (but never seen) last year’s Open Windows, which evidently used a similar gimmick to lesser effect, earning a paltry 33 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
Whatever you think of either movie, it’s probably a good bet that we’ll see more of this, or at least some creative variations, providing, of course, that we can tear ourselves away from our computer screens.