Blaire Lily (Shelley Hennig) and her pals get seriously “trolled” when their online social lives are rudely interrupted by an uninvited guest. Horror ensues in this contemporary take on the found footage concept…
Aesthetically sparse, Unfriended brings found footage horror to the world of social media, basing its entire story on the computer screen of Blaire Lily (Shelley Hennig) and her interaction with friends via various online platforms. From private messages on Facebook, to YouTube videos and Instagram photos, the story comes together – and takes a turn for the worst – when Blaire and co witness an uninvited guest enter their webcam group chat on Skype. Unable to remove the mysterious stranger, attentions begin to turn to the death of their former classmate who killed herself following an embarrassing video of her drunken antics going viral on the Internet.
Sometimes found footage can feel too staged; often in the horror genre you’d expect a character to run and hide not capture a perfectly framed shot of their aggressor. Unfriended takes the fundamentals of the approach and makes it work from the simple operations of a computer screen. Indeed, director Leo Gabriadze deserves a lot of credit for finding ways within social media and video sharing sites to create nerve wrangling tension. Who’d have thought that typing a message on Facebook could be so dramatic, or indeed, the collection of instant chat responses written then deleted until a favoured response is found.
It could quite easily become tedious watching someone click around their computer screen for 90 minutes but the fact Unfriended never feels like it’s dragging its heels is testament to the success of its execution. Gabriadze keeps his characters gripped to their seats, a bit like his audience, with a tangible sense of fear. They’re scared enough to close their computers and hide but they’re also terrified what might happen if they ignore their antogonist while being curious as to why they’re being summoned to this sadistic party.
As well as the subtle stuff there’s some strong moments of terror that’ll satisfy any horror fans with a bloodlust but it’s definitely the simpler things that really work. One moment sees a friend’s webcam image seemingly freeze – their eyes staring lifelessly at the lens – but a phone call to them causes her mobile to vibrate in front of the camera revealing the girl is strangely transfixed as if in a trance. Elsewhere, another friend gets a fright when the filmmakers play on When A Stranger Calls’ opening, before a tense standoff involving a drinking game causes all hell to break loose. Unfriended is a contemporary horror that rewards thrill-seekers.