Comedian Dane Cook had a nice observation on how all of us love to turn into critics when we see a trailer in the theaters. Whenever we see a taste of what movies are coming soon we always judge critically even if it is nowhere near the final product. Admittedly, and shamefully, this reviewer is known to do that many times and it came no different with the new, found footage horror film Unfriended. The trailers for this film, in this man’s humble opinion, looked completely dumb and seemed to be another pointless horror entry for the new millennium. After viewing Unfriended it certainly comes across much better than its advertisements, but it will mostly be a hollow victory.
Unfriended takes the novel approach of telling the story all through webcams and browsers. So whenever vital information is given it is through Facebook messages, Google searches, and anything else that is ‘hip’ in today’s tech savy generation. The one thing you can give Unfriended credit is sticking with its gimmick and also showing us what is probably the worst of today’s generation of teenagers. Every single character in this are incredibly unlikable in different aspects and, despite sounding harsh, it feels so satisfying to watch these idiots suffer. It is doubtful that Writer Nelson Greaves was going for anything too deep when he wrote this but it does give some thought while watching how much technology has degraded society to a degree.
The only problem with these aspects is that it quickly becomes frustrating to watch a film totally dedicated to the internet. After the first ten minutes you will basically see all of the film’s tricks, such as creepy ‘glitches’ or the constant texting between the two leads. Plus the film can never quite decide on how some of the tech works. Director Levan Gabriadze will tune characters out on Skype so we can see various web searches or text and it becomes frustrating that no one is calling out how the main lead is ignoring them. Also, never before has the goal of making you hate the characters succeed and fail at the same time. It is satisfying to see these people get what is coming to them but they are still assholes (for a lack of a better word) who have no redeeming value making it impossible to care about them.
The biggest issue on a whole though is the pacing of the film. For a film that does not even hit the ninety minute mark it certainly drags at points. Again, reading text or various websites can only go so far and by the halfway mark it becomes a slog to keep reading. Unfriended also uses various tricks such as loading screen, broken webcams, and an unnecessary venture to Chatroulette to build suspension. You know what is worse than experiencing bad load times on a real computer? Watching people go through the same thing in a film.
You have to give Unfriended credit for sticking to its guns when it comes to the gimmick. Levan Gabriadze made sure this was as real to life as possible to showcase a horror film in today’s computer age. But Unfriended suffers from all the typical tropes of horror films especially in terms of characters and plot. The gimmick itself honestly loses its luster barely a quarter way through and this ultimately could have worked better as an entry in an anthology series on TV in a shorter length. Initial thoughts from the previews seemed to be confirmed then; hopefully there will be a gem in the next batch of previews at the movies.