Go

Unfriended

Year: 2015
Production Co: Bazelevs Production
Studio: Universal
Director: Levan Gabriadze
Producer: Timur Bekmambetov/Nelson Greaves
Writer: Nelson Greaves
Cast: Shelley Henning, Heather Sossaman, Moses Storm, Jacob Wysocki, Will Peltz, Renee Olstead

This isn't the first time this very unique format has been used – that honour belongs to the mildly entertaining Open Windows last year, starring Elijah Wood and ex porn actress Sasha Grey.

The story's told entirely through a computer screen as we watch five teenage friends stalked by a being from another realm – the entire film made up of their Skype calls, chat windows, YouTube videos, Facebook messages and various other methods of electronic communication.

If you're tempted to dismiss what looks like just another teenage found footage-style horror film, give Unfriended a chance. It gets the story-told-entirely-online concept just perfect and makes it not only as creepy as any good horror movie but maintains a nail-biting sense of mystery about what's going on.

School senior Blaire (Shelley Henning) is watching the clip of a tragic event that happened a year before, when some heartless classmate posted a video of Laura (Heather Sossaman) blind drunk and at her embarrassing worst. Blaire then clicks over to the horrific fallout, the shaky video taken in the playground when Laura committed suicide in front of everyone after the bullying and shame that followed the incident.

Her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Storm) interrupts her by calling up on Skype and they engage in a little flirtation before their usual posse all join the call - Kennington (Jacob Wysocki), Adam (Will Peltz) and Jess (Renee Olstead). Only this time, there's a fifth panel in the Skype window they can't get rid of, apparently someone hacking into their call and listening in.

While they try to figure it out Blaire clicks over to Facebook and is disturbed to see someone using Laura's account. Creeped out, Blaire tries her best to be done with the matter – they're all obviously the target of a prank by a classmate.

But before the story has to even hint at ghosts and monsters, director Levan Gabriadze makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up with something as simple as the 'unfriend' link being greyed out when Blaire tries to use it on Laura'a page.

It shows a good understanding of how these millennial technologies work while making it plain what's going on if you don't. Could it be that Laura – or whoever's pretending to be her – doesn't want to let Blaire go?

As the Skype problem persists and things get freakier on Facebook, they figure it's another vacuous friend of theirs, Val (Courtney Halverson) and call her up, but as the interloper stalking them seems increasingly malevolent, fear rises and their tempers with each other fray.

Like Jigsaw in the Saw movies, the entity claiming to be Laura wants to play a game with them, a kind of truth or dare. Each member of the group has secrets, the online-Laura somehow knows them, and she's determined to get revenge for the video that caused her to take her own life.

The anger and threat quickly turn deadly, and when it's all over you'll quite forget you've spent the previous 80 minutes watching a static picture with a bunch of computer windows showing lines of erratically tapped LOLs and grainy, choppy webcam video.

There are all sorts of subtexts behind the film that could fill up a whole other review if you like. It could be a parable for online stranger-danger given ghostly flesh, or maybe these kids are being punished for their lack of real world interaction by being forced to interact with a terrifying world beyond any they could imagine.

But without even digging that deep it's a very cool spin on the old spirit-seeking-revenge trope. Instead of rattling chains and drifting through walls, it inhabits the world kids live in – their Facebook pages and instant message clients.

Ushered to the screen by Russian producer Timur Bekmambetov (the action/adventure director of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Wanted), it's further proof of the Saw and Paranormal Activity school of film economics, having cost $1m and taken over 50 times that.

Aside from a great story it's a good example of how the directing is the editing and vice versa and how filmmaking is changing because of technology – and how we're changing it with the way we live our lives.

© 2011-2022 Filmism.net. Site design and programming by psipublishinganddesign.com | adambraimbridge.com | humaan.com.au