Found footage has fast become a horror cliché. What was once a clever plot device has been misused on many occasions, the originality lost. Unfriended, however, gets rid of the camcorder, replacing it with something that almost all of us are very familiar with: Skype. What follows is an incredibly simple but chilling horror flick.
A cyber bully caused the suicide of Laura Barnes, posting a video in which she ends up in a drunken stupor covered in her own faeces. A year later and a group of her former friends are all sat on Skype, sharing typical teenage banter. But they’re not alone. An unknown user, using Laura’s old account, is listening in on their conversation and cannot be got rid of. At first, the group assume it’s a glitch – until this glitch begins to type commands. Things quickly spiral out of control, with the unknown presence demanding to know who posted the video whilst gradually tearing the group apart by revealing the groups’ darkest and most personal secrets.
Unfriended’s first half is undeniably slow, with huge exposition dumps and very little tension being built up. However, this does mean that the characters have some development beyond the teenage stock characters they each seem to portray. But when ‘Laura’ stops playing and starts killing, the tension and thrills are ramped up. Combining gore, jump scares, shaky cam and darkness, Unfriended takes many of the most annoying aspects of some horror films and reassembles them into something that is terrifying and, for the most part, enjoyable.
Unfriended takes many of the most annoying aspects of some horror films and reassembles them into something that is terrifying and, for the most part, enjoyable.
The use of Skype is an inspired departure from the camcorder origins of found footage films, allowing for tension-building camera distortions as well as only giving the audience a tiny window into each character’s life. As is often the case, the fear of what audiences cannot see is what delivers the most tension. Audiences view of main character Blair’s (Shelley Hennig) computer screen means we see her frantic googling and conversations with ‘Laura’ on Facebook, with the cursor translating her initial confusion and then fear perfectly through its frantic clicks and erratic moves. ‘Laura’s’ ability to control Blair’s computer manages to both be terrifying and humorous, with the paranormal presence’s Spotify selection providing an amusingly ironic soundtrack to accompany the teens’ nightmare situation. This is, in general, used very well, though in the beginning sections of the movie, Blair’s text conversations with boyfriend do become a little dull.
Despite its slow start, Unfriended uses its original take on the ‘found footage’ style horror flick to create something that is both engaging and scary. Though perhaps not always the most gripping or unpredictable outing into the horror genre, Unfriended is definitely a welcome distraction from the looming deadlines that threaten us all.