Thursday, April 16, 2015
Where's my Dislike button?
Review by Brandon WolfeThe runaway success of Paranormal Activity was the point where the found-footage format crossed over into the mainstream (The Blair Witch Project was obviously the subgenre’s first hit, but it spent the decade following its release as a one-off curio rather than a trendsetter), spearheading the opportunity for filmmakers to crank out cost-effective horror films that didn’t require slick production values or expensive equipment. They could be produced with recording devices you could get at Best Buy and were expected, even encouraged, to look like they were shot by shaky-handed amateurs. Given its low-overhead accessibility, the subgenre has become so ubiquitous that filmmakers are now having to figure out ways to make the achingly familiar seem new again. So instead of horror films shot on consumer-based cameras, how about one shot entirely on Skype? That’s something new, yes? Unfriended sure wants you to think it is. The film takes place entirely within the confines of a teenager’s laptop, in real-time, as she flirts with her boyfriend, Skypes with her friends and checks her email and Facebook page. Eventually, as she and her group of friends natter on while Skyping, they notice a mysterious party crasher is among them, designated only by a photoless default icon. The group is unable to delete the mystery guest from their ranks, and the unidentified party begins reaching out to them across several platforms, claiming to be a fellow classmate, Laura Barns, who took her own life exactly a year ago (depicted in the opening scene, via YouTube video) after a mortifying video of her was posted online for the world to see. This ghost in the machine cannot be exorcised despite everyone’s best efforts and seems to have revenge on the brain, seeking to destroy the bonds between these friends before destroying their bodies as well. V/H/S film, but stretched out to 83 minutes, it becomes something of an endurance test. There are moments when the film seems to be attempting to comment on such real-world concerns as cyber-bullying or “slut-shaming,” but it ultimately only pays them lip service. No, Unfriended’s only true aim is to replicate the experience of watching an annoying teenager surf the Web and babble with her dumb friends in exhaustively accurate detail. This isn’t a horror film, it’s the world’s most mundane Saw trap. Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Brandon Wolfe at @BrandonTheWolfe.