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Editorial


Front Page - Friday, April 24, 2015

‘Unfriended’ will click with horror fans


The Critic's Corner



David Laprad

Unfriended” is a movie unlike any I’ve seen. It’s also a superb horror film.

The entire movie takes place in real time on the computer screen of a high school girl named Blaire. It begins with her connecting to YouTube to watch a video of her best friend, Laura, committing suicide a year earlier. She then clicks on another video, the release of which caused her friend to take her own life. A few seconds later, Blaire’s boyfriend, Mitch, Skypes her.

The two spend a few minutes chatting about prom and talking dirty, and then three of their friends join the conversation from their homes. An unidentified sixth person also connects to the group, but instead of being visible on a webcam, as the others are, the digital party crasher is represented by a generic Skype avatar.

This person doesn’t stay anonymous, though. In time, this person reveals herself to be Laura. As if that weren’t creepy enough, people then begin to die.

I could describe more of the backstory to you, but that would ruin the experience of watching this insanely compelling movie. Who would have thought the cinemtic equivalent of standing over someone’s shoulder and watching them type on a computer would be anything but a bore? Director Levan Gabriadze and writer Nelson Greaves, that’s who.

Using several popular Internet applications, the creators of “Unfriended” slowly reveal the backstory of why Laura killed herself, and why she’s taking her friends to task for it. Yes, you’ll have to do a lot of reading as Blaire texts her friends, performs Google searches, and even chooses ironically appropriate songs as the soundtrack for her evening. But you’ll also watch the story unfold as she plays more and more of the fateful video and sees her friends pay the ultimate price for their part in what happened.

To say “Unfriended” is compelling doesn’t begin to describe its effect on me as a viewer. I literally could not take my eyes off the screen. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn I didn’t even blink.

Looking back, I’m surprised by how transfixed I was. By confining themselves to a single computer screen, Gabriadze and Greaves forced themselves to come up with unique ways of creating tension. One of the many clever touches can be seen in Blaire’s increasingly frantic use of her computer. In the beginning, things are relaxed as she teases Mitch and casually switches over to iTunes to play a song. By the time she’s trying to talk Laura out of killing everyone, she’s frantically switching from window to window and typing like a banshee. I’ve seen expensive action movies with a slower pulse than “Unfriended.”

Gabriadze and Greaves do effectively use some old school techniques. In one of my favorite moments in the movie, a girl drops her cell phone in what appears to be a scuffle, and it lands upside down on the floor. None of her friends know what’s going on, so viewers are given a shot of the image transmitting through the phone and the five friends staring silently at their screens as they wait to see what happened. Horror movie convention dicates that something will burst into frame and make a loud noise, but it was fun waiting for what felt like a minute or more for the ball to drop.

The filmmakers touch on several themes in “Unfriended,” including the devastating effects of cyberbullying. Less obvious is the idea that social media has made us more connected to each other, but we might not know the people closest to us as well as we think we do. Perhaps the most brilliant aspect of the movie is how seemingly tight friendships unravel as secrets are revealed.

While “Unfriended” might sound like a gimmick, it’s actually an intellgient and thoughtful horror film that manages to deliver plenty of thrills. The horror genre used to belong to crude and derivative slasher pics like “Friday the 13th” and “Scream,” but with films like this and “It Follows,” we seem to be at the beginning of a renaissance of creativity for scary movies.

I just hope the success of “Unfriended” doesn’t give rise to a spate of sequels and clones. That happened with “Paranormal Activity,” and it was unfortunate. If it happens, maybe I could be credited with calling it the “backslash genre.”

Three and a half stars out of four. Rated R for violent content, pervasive language, sexuality, and drug and alcohol use. David Laprad is the assistant editor of the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact him at dlaprad@hamiltoncountyherald.com.

‘Unfriended’ will click with horror fans

 

U

nfriended” is a movie unlike any I’ve seen. It’s also a superb horror film.

The entire movie takes place in real time on the computer screen of a high school girl named Blaire. It begins with her connecting to YouTube to watch a video of her best friend, Laura, committing suicide a year earlier. She then clicks on another video, the release of which caused her friend to take her own life. A few seconds later, Blaire’s boyfriend, Mitch, Skypes her.

The two spend a few minutes chatting about prom and talking dirty, and then three of their friends join the conversation from their homes. An unidentified sixth person also connects to the group, but instead of being visible on a webcam, as the others are, the digital party crasher is represented by a generic Skype avatar.

This person doesn’t stay anonymous, though. In time, this person reveals herself to be Laura. As if that weren’t creepy enough, people then begin to die.

I could describe more of the backstory to you, but that would ruin the experience of watching this insanely compelling movie. Who would have thought the cinemtic equivalent of standing over someone’s shoulder and watching them type on a computer would be anything but a bore? Director Levan Gabriadze and writer Nelson Greaves, that’s who.

Using several popular Internet applications, the creators of “Unfriended” slowly reveal the backstory of why Laura killed herself, and why she’s taking her friends to task for it. Yes, you’ll have to do a lot of reading as Blaire texts her friends, performs Google searches, and even chooses ironically appropriate songs as the soundtrack for her evening. But you’ll also watch the story unfold as she plays more and more of the fateful video and sees her friends pay the ultimate price for their part in what happened.

To say “Unfriended” is compelling doesn’t begin to describe its effect on me as a viewer. I literally could not take my eyes off the screen. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn I didn’t even blink.

Looking back, I’m surprised by how transfixed I was. By confining themselves to a single computer screen, Gabriadze and Greaves forced themselves to come up with unique ways of creating tension. One of the many clever touches can be seen in Blaire’s increasingly frantic use of her computer. In the beginning, things are relaxed as she teases Mitch and casually switches over to iTunes to play a song. By the time she’s trying to talk Laura out of killing everyone, she’s frantically switching from window to window and typing like a banshee. I’ve seen expensive action movies with a slower pulse than “Unfriended.”

Gabriadze and Greaves do effectively use some old school techniques. In one of my favorite moments in the movie, a girl drops her cell phone in what appears to be a scuffle, and it lands upside down on the floor. None of her friends know what’s going on, so viewers are given a shot of the image transmitting through the phone and the five friends staring silently at their screens as they wait to see what happened. Horror movie convention dicates that something will burst into frame and make a loud noise, but it was fun waiting for what felt like a minute or more for the ball to drop.

The filmmakers touch on several themes in “Unfriended,” including the devastating effects of cyberbullying. Less obvious is the idea that social media has made us more connected to each other, but we might not know the people closest to us as well as we think we do. Perhaps the most brilliant aspect of the movie is how seemingly tight friendships unravel as secrets are revealed.

While “Unfriended” might sound like a gimmick, it’s actually an intellgient and thoughtful horror film that manages to deliver plenty of thrills. The horror genre used to belong to crude and derivative slasher pics like “Friday the 13th” and “Scream,” but with films like this and “It Follows,” we seem to be at the beginning of a renaissance of creativity for scary movies.

I just hope the success of “Unfriended” doesn’t give rise to a spate of sequels and clones. That happened with “Paranormal Activity,” and it was unfortunate. If it happens, maybe I could be credited with calling it the “backslash genre.”

Three and a half stars out of four. Rated R for violent content, pervasive language, sexuality, and drug and alcohol use. David Laprad is the assistant editor of the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact him at dlaprad@hamiltoncountyherald.com.