I usually don’t review horror films. Not because I dislike them (the 80’s slasher films are some of my favorites), but because more than any other genre, horror flicks have become redundant. Even the relatively new found footage style of horror filmmaking has gotten stale. Personally, I need more than the typical demonic possession, creepy looking doll, or random jump scare to be entertained.
But, low and behold, every once in a while some filmmaker will actually make something unique. With Unfriended, Director Levan Gabriadze and writer Nelson Greaves take the found footage genre to an entirely new level. This film, unlike any other, is shot entirely as if from the point of view of a laptop screen. The story revolves around a high school girl and her friends who video chat on the anniversary of the gruesome public suicide of one of their classmates who succumbed to anonymous cyberbullying. After being messaged by the deceased girl’s account, strange and creepy occurrences ensue as the anonymous troll goes on a vengeful rampage.
Now, don’t expect this film to reinvent the genre or shake numerous horror movie clichés just because it’s molded differently. I assure you, the horror movie checklist is all but filled out by the time this one is over. Even the “scary” parts might only be enough to make only those with weaker constitutions feel frightened. But, it’s the way the film carries things out that makes it interesting. Using a series of youtube videos or Facebook messages to give character insight or using the main character’s itunes as the film score are just a couple of ways the film manages to feel fresh despite offering little surprises. And even though it’s predictable, the way things unravel: through eerie emails and deadly games of ‘Never Have I Ever’, manage to keep things from ever getting boring.
Certainly being inventive gives no guarantee of being entertaining (see Cabin in The Woods or It Follows). But Unfriended makes no attempt to escape being a teenage slasher flick. It knows what it is, but at least it gives the expected in a way we haven’t seen before. And clocking in at just under an hour and a half, it won’t feel long in the tooth. In the overpopulated world of horror films, that’s decent enough for me.
FINAL GRADE: B-