Go in with low expectations, and ye shall be rewarded. Exhibit A: Unfriended, which has a cheesy trailer, a gimmicky-looking premise, and a wince-worthy title, and yet still actually managed to be a pretty damn decent horror flick.
Guys. Maybe I should be more open-minded about these things. Did The LEGO Movie teach me nothing? Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 could be an unsung masterpiece! You don’t know!
The premise of Unfriended is that six friends are Skyping one night—like The Teens do—when they come under attack from the spirit of Laura Barns, a bullied classmate of theirs who committed suicide one year ago. Now she’s all up in those Internet tubes and ready to take revenge. Haunted Skype! Haunted iMessage! Haunted Facebook! Haunted Chatroulette! It’s all here! Except haunted Reddit. There are no upvotes from beyond the graaaaave, ooooooohhh, spooky scary. And no haunted Google+, which is a ghost town anyway, heyooooooh.
The part that had a lot of people crying “gimmick” is that Unfriended takes place entirely on a computer screen. However, it also takes place in real time, over the course of a tight 82 minutes, so the movie’s not bending over backwards to try and explain why its characters keep going to their computers to talk about important plot developments over a period of days instead of just passing notes about it in Home Ec (what do the kids do?). Within the universe of the film, there’s a very plausible reason for everything to be happening on a screen. There is internal consistency.
There are some downsides. Director Leo Gabriadze has found something more obnoxious than shakycam, and it is Skype Glitch. The glitches and skipping that Skype users will be oh so familiar with do a good job at adding a layer of creepiness at first—Unfriended pulls some of its biggest scares from the dreaded buffering, which I thought was pretty clever—but after a while it got to be a bit much. The film’s anti-bullying message—while a good, important message to have—at times verged into PSA territory. And, finally, full disclosure, I don’t know if the film scared me because it is genuinely scary or because I am a wimp.
Because I am. A wimp. I cover it up with my badass demeanor, but it is true.
On the whole, though, Unfriended is a well-executed, refreshingly innovative little horror movie featuring teenagers behaving the way teenagers actually behave—in how they talk, in how they interact with technology, in how they are assholes. Seriously, Unfriended might as well be called Teenagers Are Horror Show Dicks: The Movie. Every character is fucking awful, but then you get to see the Ghost of Facebook poltergeist the fuck out of them, so: Bonus!
And no one uses Bing.