Finally decided to revive this blog and for what? To review a modern teen horror movie? Wars have been declared for less.
I laughed a lot when I saw the trailer for Unfriended. I couldn’t help myself. The one on–screen death they showed was hilarious and the entire premise just seemed like a lame attempt to pander to millennials with their SpaceBooks and Twittergrams. So color me surprised when I actually sat through a fairly competent 82 minutes.
As far as movies that give me mixed feelings go, this one is up there. I’ll never watch this movie on purpose again, but not because I hated it. The movie has some payoff, but not quite enough. It has some panache, but not a ton of hold. It falls flat in some, but not all scenes. The teens are stereotypical, but not caricatures. The girls are catty, the dudes are fuckboys. As the movies presses on, some pretty nasty skeletons in their respective closets are revealed – some tied to the source of the scares, but not all of them. But did they deserve to die, in the ways that they did?
Who killed Laura Barns? The opening scene is a LiveLeak video of her suicide in front of some classmates. The root of her suicide is revealed in a YouTube video posted by someone you don’t find out until the end, but you have a pretty shrewed idea of who it is by the first five seconds of the Skype call that dominates the movie. At this point, the only video missing is a World Star HipHop watermark somewhere. Laura comes back as some kind of cyber ghost, hellbent on ruining the lives of her six suspected tormenters before offing them one by one in ways that rather impressed me with their creativity. Two of the deaths in particular involved a blender and a curling iron, thankfully not at the same time. The final death also serves as the final jump scare a la Paranormal Activity (2009) before the credits roll, which annoyed me, but there have been worse endings.
The whole film, save for the last three seconds, all takes place on the main character Blaire Lily’s computer screen. Her screen is everything a high school girl’s MacBook Pro’s computer should be: a messy desktop with files and folders strewn about, multiple programs open, including uTorrent, iMessage, Spotify, and Google Chrome with Gmail, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, etc. open in the tabs. The way she navigates her screen is all right and is only annoying in ways that watching anyone navigate a computer screen is annoying because it’s not you controlling the track pad. It makes you itch to take it away from them because you don’t need to move your cursor to the side dock and then click on the Chrome icon to bring it up to the front, it’s literally right behind your Messages window it’s not even obscured oh my GOD JUST CLICK ON THE BROWSER WINDOW BEHIND YOUR MESSAGES WINDOW COME ON. Instances like these are mercifully rare because she’s a teenager in 2015 and a digital native, not immigrant. If Blaire were like some of the people calling the tech support line at my job, I’d be dead far before anyone in the film bit the dust. Some people just want to watch the world burn…by taking several years to click an icon.
The other five are reasonably tolerable as people in the beginning and then never again. There’s Mitch, Blaire’s boyfriend who is probably only a fuckboy because his friends are…like Adam, his rather volatile best friend, who probably watches lacrosse on TV and likes to sext girls seconds upon getting their number with such steamy lines as “haha and then what ;)” Then there’s Kenny, the stoniest stoner who ever stoned, the resident fat kid, and the one who had to explain what a troll is to people his age in the year 2013. Roll call for the ladies: Blaire, the main character who apparently abandoned any semblance of a personality in the womb. Val, the replacement pariah upon Laura’s death. Jess, the girl most likely to make sure you know she “hates drama.” Am I projecting just a little too much? It’s so very easy with these people. It’s also not very fair, but I am 23 and keep my dumb shit that affects other people to a minimum, so I am better than them.
I won’t bore you with the rest of the exposition, so let’s get to where the movie finally gets going: on a group Skype call involving an extra person with no avatar or working video and no one can hang up on them. I knew this movie was going to be shallower than a flattened teaspoon, so I chose to read this as a clever jab to Skype in 2013, where it was the buggiest program to ever be churned out of Microsoft’s hate factory, because it gave me something to do. The mystery person serves as an annoyance at first, but then starts communicating with them – but not before communicating with Mitch and Blaire first via Facebook. Then shit. gets. REAL. Or as real as this movie can get.
4chan drones, meet your god. Of course the mystery person is Laura, a true trollcano from the grave. Horrible secrets are revealed and the kids all die one by one as Laura doxxes the shit out of them and sends pizza to their house. And by “sends pizza to their house,” I mean “murders them to death.” Dank memes are involved. 2009 me has the biggest troll boner the world has ever seen. Pour a Mountain Dew out for this homie because Laura is not even in the general direction of fucking around when it comes to wrecking their shit.
Speaking of shit, the video that drove Laura to kill herself is pretty bad. In a time where employers are scouring the Internet for any dirt to dig up on prospective employees, this video is what we call “a life sentence of living at home,” not to mention it’s highly embarrassing and the people who film and post these videos are the cesspool of humanity. None of these characters are contenders for sainthood by any means, but some people may write off their actions as “kids will be kids.” And while I don’t think they all deserved to die, especially so gruesomely, they definitely did not deserve to get off scot-free. And Laura, bless her, knows this to her core. As different truths come out about each character and relationships disintegrate over a single video call, you can feel her satisfaction through the screen.
The movie comes dangerously close several times to getting preachy about the consequences of cyberbullying (spoiler alert: they will never be the same), to the point where I expected a fade–in of “Stand up to cyberbullying with this hashtag…” before the credits. But overall, they manage to toe the line and create a rather satisfying shitshow.
Is this movie particularly edgy or scary? Not really. Is it fun? Sort of, but needs more friends in the audience with you and alcohol. Does the movie accomplish what it sets out to do? This is the most important question and the answer is yes. Plus, it just goes to show you: people die, but what they do on the Internet never, ever does.