A group of friends join a Skype chat, but someone else is on the line…
Unfriended could easily have been a disastrous attempt to cross-breed the found footage horror genre with modern the modern social media scene but the result is actually a fun an effective scary snack.
At a basic level it’s a ghost story but one which is told entirely though the ever shifting screens of a Mac. That’s right, you’ll never see a regular camera angle on a person in its entire 83 minute running time, with the picture starting on a dodgy video on a website and sending us on a whirlwind trip through YouTube, Facebook, iMessage, Spotify and a lot of Skype.
It takes place in real-time as well, with the clock positioned at the top right (familiar to Mac user) ticking off every minute of the ordeal. It’s all very clever and put together with a good sense of how these programs and sites really work as well as how they can best be used to deliver the thrills and chills needed to advance the story.
Russian director Levan Gabriadze makes his English language debut with a script by Sleepy Hollow writer Nelson Greaves. It’s far from the most original take on the genre ever but there’s enough interesting stuff going on with the computer point of view to keep it interesting.
Gabriadze shot a lot of the film in long takes featuring all the actors connected and reacting in real-time, using GoPro’s mounted to laptops to get the in your face perspective. And this locked in, linear progression towards the loud finale helps to elicit strong performances from the young cast.
As a Blumhouse film (that’s the company behind Paranormal Activity and Insidious) Unfriended follows the formula of being a cheap production designed to make a profit but the execution is strong enough that it stands to be a real breakout hit, and all for a cost of just $1 million.
I did find the format a bit exhausting around the hour mark but the film is pacy and inventive enough that the running time really seems to fly by. For the record, it’s also stuffed full of bad language and some pretty nasty moments, so it definitely earns the 16 rating in Ireland. Well worth a look.