By: Kevin Jordan
There are two kinds of people in this world. One kind are the people who think, speak, and type in text message shorthand, believe cell phones are required for survival of the species, and are social media ninjas. The other kind are those who think we’re all doomed because that first kind of people are going to be running the world in the not-too-distant future. Watch Idiocracy and weep for our species. Unfriended is a movie for that first kind of people, created by the second kind of people that basically says “we hate you.” Wait…hold on. I mean “we h8 U.”
Now, I know what you are thinking – there’s no way Unfriended is the real title of a movie. I agree with you because that title immediately causes any human with a penis (or >30-year old vagina) to want to watch anything else. Unfortunately, that’s the updated title of the movie – its original title was Cybernatural. Unfriended doesn’t sound so bad now, does it? You also probably don’t think this entire movie takes place through a Skype window because that’s even more ludicrous than the film’s title. Again, I agree with you because who wants to watch an entire movie through five small windows that aren’t even in high-def?
Contrary to what you would guess about a movie with a terrible title and blatantly gimmicky style, Unfriended has an unbelievably favorable Rotten Tomatoes rating, currently standing at 79% (it’s 3:00 PM on April 16, in case you are wondering). Apparently, 79% of critics were hallucinating because, of those positive reviews, there are two common themes that need to be dispelled right away. The first is that this movie is, in any way, scary. The only way you could possibly be scared during this flick is if you hit the bong for a few hours and are in the midst of a paranoia that would make Edward Snowden blush. The second is that this movie is “found-footage.” I can see how the brainless critics of the main stream media would make that mistake, but shame on A.A. Dowd of the AV Club (among others) for saying it. Found-footage flicks always begin with a statement that what we are about to watch took place sometime in the past. That’s why it’s called “found.” In Unfriended, we are watching the events in real time along with the characters. Specifically, we are watching along with the main character, Blaire (Shelley Hennig), on her computer. That’s not found-footage; that’s just footage. Using Skype as the camera for this film doesn’t make it found-footage any more than posting a selfie at the beach doesn’t make one a supermodel.
(SPOILER ALERT. Or is it SPLR ALRT? I’m old.)
Some critics would have you believe that this movie is some kind of commentary about cyber-bullying and cyber-shaming (two phrases-du-jour) and they do have a bit of a point. The film begins with Blaire viewing a video clip of Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman) killing herself. Then, Blaire clicks on a video of Laura at a party a year early depicting a drunken Laura acting like a bitch and ending up passed out on the ground next to a trailer. This second clip incited a year’s worth of nasty comments and is the reason Laura killed herself. Given the recent Internet attacks and blowbacks of Curt Schilling, Ashley Judd, and P!nk, it’s easy to see why Unfriended suddenly got a theater release even though it premiered almost a year ago (July 20, 2014) at the Fantasia Film Festival.
Anyway, Blaire is Skyping with her boyfriend, Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm – seriously, that’s his real name!?), when three of their friends – Jess (Renee Olstead), Adam (Will Peltz), and Ken (Jacob Wysocki) – suddenly join the call. A sixth mystery person is also on the call, but none of the friends know who it is or why they can’t remove the person from the call. The entire remainder of the film is standard cabin-in-the-woods fare where the five kids (plus a sixth, Val) are killed off one by one while the killer toys with them in ever-escalating ways, and the kids continue to not do anything even remotely logical. Remember how I said those critics had a point about cyber-bullying, etc.? Well, the problem with that notion is that the killer is a ghost hacker. You read that right – it’s the ghost of Laura Barns and she has hacked their computers and can cause them to kill their selves whenever she wants (also, she can conjure up video of embarrassing moments that were never actually recorded and place web cams wherever she wants). The screenwriter (Nelson Greaves) vaguely explains this through a website that Mitch sends Blaire to that simply says don’t respond to digital messages (or analog, presumably) from the dead…or else. Of course, the web site also claims that admitting sins will stave off death and both of those things are contradicted throughout the film. If you’re trying to reconcile all of that with the cyber-bullying commentary, the lesson is that if you are an Internet-trolling douche bag, a ghost is going to make you kill yourself. Would that that were true.
Another problem with the movie is that the characters are all unlikeable little assholes, including the girl who committed suicide, so you won’t give a shit when any of them dies. In fact, you might be rooting for it, as it is eventually revealed that they are all deserving of horrible deaths. Again, that includes Laura.
But, the very worst thing about the movie is the Skype gimmick itself. As annoying as it is to put up with glitching and bad connections on your home computer, this movie forces you to endure that same thing during the movie in order to make it feel more authentic. Piling on top is that at least half of the dialogue is done via instant messaging and chat windows. If I wanted to read a movie, I’d watch a foreign film with actual acting and decent production value. And, I don’t like watching foreign films because when you have to read a movie, you miss the freaking movie.
Considering this movie is technically a slasher flick, it is woefully lacking of the things that make slasher flicks fun, even when they are dumb. Blood, gore, boobs, action, the killer’s fatal flaw – anything to distract you from the fact that watching an entire movie through Skype is as boring as watching Skype trying to connect to someone, but the spinning wheel never stops spinning. The only thing that interrupts the boredom is the fighting between five high school kids that is so grating you wish Laura would kill you first. TTFN.
Rating: Don’t ask for any money back because surely you weren’t stupid enough to pay for a movie called Unfriended.