Bonus Watching: Unfriended (2014)
List Progress: 9/12
I was expecting schlock when I turned on 2014’s horror movie Unfriended. It’s a supernatural teen slasher, not exactly the most refined genre. But Unfriended has no qualms about what it is, it’s not trying to skew the genre or deconstruct it, it’s just doing it really, really well. This is a sleek, tense, well-constructed horror movie, and I would highly recommend ignoring its critical reception and giving it a shot.
The central conceit of Unfriended is that it takes place entirely on the main character’s computer screen. High schooler Blaire is browsing online and chatting with her friends, and the focus is never separated from what is happening on her screen. It is the one-year anniversary of the death of Laura Barns, a former-friend of Blaire’s who was bullied to the point of suicide after an embarrassing video of her was posted online. But someone using Laura’s social media accounts is reaching out to Blaire and the others and confronting them with their own dark secrets.
This is a conceit that serves its plot beautifully, rather than being a tacked-on addition to it. Not only is the teen dialogue very realistic, but the internet practices are portrayed with incredible verisimilitude. So much of Blaire’s inner life is portrayed in what she starts to type only to change her mind and delete, what she focuses on and what she hurriedly scrolls past, and even how her cursor hesitates over links that will lead to disastrous truths. This movie was immersive to watch on a television screen, and I can only imagine how haunting it would be to watch it on a laptop.
The film takes place completely in real time, and the realistic dialogue means that you really do feel like you have spent an evening with these characters. The tension escalates steadily throughout, becoming oppressive and inescapable by the end, and while the characters react in very authentic, human and logical ways to threats, the audience knows their fates were sealed long ago.
Maybe Unfriended is schlock. But it is well-crafted, well-honed schlock that has been polished to a mirror sheen. And if you are ready for a night of internet horror, I would very much recommend logging on.
Would I Recommend It: Emphatically yes.