31 Days of Reviews: Unfriended (2014)

On the one year anniversary of Laura Barnes’ suicide, a group of friends start an ordinary group video chat on Skype. They soon find that they aren’t alone, and the stranger has a supernatural vendetta against them.

When I first saw previews for Unfriended, I was intrigued. There were people, of course, who were saying the usual “oh these kids and their social media! What has this world come to,” but I knew that I wanted to see the movie. I’d seen the idea of parts of a movie being on a computer screen through a few movies recently, including The Den which I really enjoyed, and I was interested to see how the concept would pan out through an entire movie.

After seeing Unfriended, I think I can honestly say that the computer screen concept was one of the best parts. I find the concept to be really interesting, especially for my generation. It’s something we see a lot, so seeing it reflected in films is fun. On the other hand, this was also one of the most frustrating parts of Unfriended for me, in that it wasn’t realistic.

This movie uses a lot of social media and networking services that are popular and familiar to a lot of people, including Facebook, YouTube and Skype. It’s because of this that I was incredibly distracted by the inaccuracies that were shown throughout the movie. It was little things, I’ll admit, like messages disappearing when they shouldn’t, sound effects being played too late, too early, or just at the wrong time. These inaccuracies definitely took me out of the story. It felt like I was watching a movie based on the internet by people who had never been on the internet. The movie could have avoided this by creating its own platform rather than using established services, but I can understand why the creators chose to do what they did.

One of the biggest inaccuracies that kept bothering me was that whenever the main character would click off of Skype, during the video call, in order to check other sites, the dialogue would completely disappear. This left the film with kind of an awkward silence, other than typing sounds from the main character, and that’s not how it should have been. The conversation amongst the main character’s friends would have continued, because it was clear that they were still talking. Occasionally, when the main character was about to return to the video call, the dialogue would slowly fade back in to the film which I found incredibly distracting. When I looked up facts about the movie, I read somewhere that this was a decision made specifically for the final version of the film, so at least it had a purpose even though I still don’t agree with it.

On a different note, the characters were a little painful for me. Maybe it’s just been a while since I was in high school, so I’ve been distanced from the drama that can ensue, but the actions of the characters were kind of painful for me to watch. I didn’t really feel for them, and this can be bad for a movie of this type. I did think that the acting was pretty great. The characters get into some pretty intense emotions in a short amount of time, and I thought the actors did a really good job portraying that. I found an interesting production fact about this as well when looking up stuff. Essentially, the actors were all in different rooms of the same house, and they filmed in really long takes. I think I may have read that some of the takes lasted 84 minutes which would be the entirety of the film, meaning that the actors really sat down and performed the entire movie like a live play. That’s pretty cool.

Overall, the movie is a take on cyberbullying. I was watching the movie with someone else who did not grow up in the social media age, and he disconnected from the film very quickly. I can see that being the case for a lot of people. Other than the positive things I’ve said in this review, Unfriended really isn’t that great. I can appreciate the work and thought that went into the movie because I know there was a lot, but I think that making some different decisions may have helped the finished product.

Unfriended has a semi-original concept based on something that is very real for youth in the social media age. The story is presented in an unorthodox filming style which may disconnect viewers who are older or who don’t use social media platforms.

I’m still looking out for films that take place entirely on a computer screen. I can see that concept working, but I also understand that it can be really difficult to get the point across in that way. I think that’s where Unfriended struggles.

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