Friday, 1 May 2015



Technically, given that all the characters are aware of the presence of the camera, this qualifies as yet another found-footage film, and I'm fed up with banging on about their inadequacies almost as much as I'm fed up with the films themselves. Happily, this is at least trying to add a few wrinkles and to do something slightly different with the well-worn idea, and that is to be applauded even if it doesn't entirely come off and it can't make the endless bickering of its cast of just six (one of whom is unseen except for video clips) even remotely sympathetic.

Unfriended takes place in one unbroken Skype conversation of around eighty minutes (all done in a single take through their webcams) as seen on the laptop of one of the five friends chatting online, on the anniversary of the suicide of one of their number, Laura (Heather Sossaman). But somehow there's someone else lurking uninvited in the cyberchat: initially they think it's either a computer glitch or a tasteless prank, but as it posts Facebook notifications and links to YouTube videos, something more sinister and supernatural is slowly revealed....

Rather than depicting the online space as a physical, theatrical space (as in Hideo Nakata's Chatroom, or even the Tron films), Unfriended focuses entirely on one computer screen throughout as Blaire (Shelley Hennig) tabs between Google, Skype, Spotify playlists and private messages. This isn't a new idea - you can go back to 2002's The Collingswood Story, which also took place entrely online - but it does bring to mind Nacho Vigalondo's wonderful Open Windows from last year, a film which felt like an extended Brian De Palma split-screen sequence. And frankly Unfriended just isn't in that league. More damagingly, it's hard to rack up any sympathy for these shallow, selfish individuals, even before their dark and vicious secrets are slowly uncovered: indeed, with the shocking revelations of their behaviour, and their involvement in the online bullying and humiliation of Laura that led to her death in the first place. there is the sense that these idiots are getting what's coming to them in the form of righteous justice.

Perhaps because of my low expectations given my dislike for the genre, I ended up almost pleasantly surprised by Unfriended. The narrative is well constructed with the twists and reveals dropped in at just the right moments and the film makes good use of recognisable online brands (Spotify and so on) rather than generic, similar-looking alternatives that don't actually infringe the copyright. Watchable enough, but I really wouldn't want to see this kind of film too often.


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