Unfriended

Movie Information

The Story: Some overage teenagers run afoul of a vengeful spirit online. The Lowdown: A strong contender for Worst Movie of 2015. This isn't even bargain-basement horror of the so-bad-it's-funny school. This is so-bad-it's-awful. That said, some have called it brilliant.
Score:

Genre: Low-Tech Gimmick Horror
Director: Levan Gabriadze
Starring: Shelley Hennig, Moses Jacob Storm, Renee Olstead, Will Peltz, Jacob Wysocki
Rated: R

unfriended3

 

I suppose the unmitigated rubbish that is Unfriended fills some kind of need. If nothing else, it affords studios yet another chance to make a quick buck on low-budget horror pictures. It certainly seems to have convinced a number of otherwise rational film critics — along with some who don’t really qualify as critics, let alone rational ones — that it is some kind of profound and profoundly terrifying critique on social media, cyber bullying and the casual cruelty, hypocrisy — and utter lack of values — of the American teenager. (I haven’t seen so much undeserved gush since Paranormal Activity appeared in 2009.) I only wish the movie I saw was anything like the one they’re enthusing over.

 

unnfriended

 

What I saw was a mind-numbing gimmick completely lacking in nuance, point and even marginally likable characters — not to mention the slightest hint of production values. The movie — all of which takes place in something like real time on Blaire’s (Shelley Hennig) computer screen — manages the not inconsiderable feat of making social media even more vapid, witless and boring than it is in real life. You might think that the addition of a vengeful spirit (I guess that’s what it is) would liven things up. You would be wrong. What we end up with is a bunch of truly unpleasant, self-absorbed teenagers (played by folks well into their 20s, of course) messaging in barely literate “chatspeak” and yelling at each other on Skype — all recorded in grating lo-fi to maximize the headache-inducing annoyance value. These “kids” start out loud and only increase in volume as panic sets in and their grubby, pathetic little secrets are revealed. Chances are you will not find learning these secrets an especially edifying experience.

 

unfriended

 

The central idea of the movie — apart from getting you into the theater, of course — is that it’s the anniversary of the suicide of Laura (Heather Sossaman), who was driven to the act when a video of her drunk and incontinent went viral, prompting a rash of cyber-bullying. (Her suicide, by the way, is also available online.) Well, it seems that someone or something — possibly Laura’s ghost — is out for revenge on those responsible. As luck — and the cyberfied dictates of the And Then There Were None formula — would have it, all of the suspected miscreants gather online for a Skype-athon conversation that will instill indifference of a positively supernatural level in all but the most easily amused viewers. Fortunately, there’s the additional presence of a Mystery Guest to add … well, not much actually. Then Blaire makes the mistake of breaking the first law of the internet — she answers a message from a dead person. (Remember this. It could save your life — much like not seeing this movie will save you ten bucks.)

 

unfriended4

 

Theoretically, all this will plunge the viewer into a nightmare of horror as more is learned and vengeance is exacted — all in low-resolution jittery online images. What we learn really is that all these characters are loathsome human beings, despite Blaire’s insistence that they’re all “really good people” — evidence of which is woefully lacking. The film wants to be a statement on the perils of the online world and the evils of cyber-bullying — laudable notions both. What it mostly conveys is that teenagers are pretty horrible and that it is ill-advised to engage with dead folks in online chats. As horror, this is pretty tepid stuff, too — with most of the shocks barely glimpsed on bad video. Let’s put it this way, by the 20-minute mark I was regretting choosing this over Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2. The next day when I inadvertently saw the last five minutes of Paul Blart, I still felt the same way. Rated R for violent content, pervasive language, some sexuality, and drug and alcohol use — all involving teens.

 

SHARE
About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

19 thoughts on “Unfriended

  1. Avery

    To say this movie was a pathetic film attempt would be the understatement of the century. I tried to give this movie a fair chance tonight, but the state of the theater I was in spoke more volume than the “Plot” of this movie ever could. Rows upon rows were completely empty in my usually packed local theater. It was two small groups of teenagers, a single young couple, and me. I found myself more captivated by the laughter of the howling teenagers behind me than the actual movie. They laughed particularly loud when the blender scene came on. The young couple in front of me walked out halfway through the film, annoyed, and the teenagers talked through all of it. Honestly, some of those kids should be in stand up. The jokes they made about ‘Unfriended’ were something straight from a late-night comedy show. By the time it was over, I found myself feeling as if I had just left a comedy movie rather than a scary one. I was glad that one of the teenagers brought up the fact that part of the movie parodied a suicided event gone viral (One I will leave nameless, though the writers made it shamefully obvious). I was happy to hear that even the youth found the parody as distasteful and unpleasant as I did. To give this movie a half star out of five would be giving it far too much praise.
    -Avery.N

    • Ken Hanke

      Unfortunately, a half star is as low as this rating system goes.

  2. Vincent

    I agree with your review on this Ken. I think we had the same experience, because when I was leaving the theatre I thought Paul Blart Mall Cop 2 HAD to be better than this. I am also surprised by the kudos some critics have given this film. While I think the cyber bullying issue is worthy of attention, I don’t think this film accomplished much on that.

  3. T.rex

    “Critics” calling this brilliant are either too young to know better (any film lover should know better) or just freaking idiots. Let’s hope they are using the term to describe its level of gimmicky-ness.

    • Ken Hanke

      A friend of mine has a theory that the older critics who are peeing down their legs over this movie are afraid of looking unhip and generally out of step.

      • trexguy .

        “Film snobs” like me have always been unhip.
        I just hope this “film” doesn’t go all Paronirmal Activity and get 5 sequels.

        • Ken Hanke

          Well, you’re only a film snob as concerns newer films. You like an awful lot of ’80s crap that isn’t film snob stuff. If you grew up with it, your critical filter switches off.

          As for sequels…it cost $1 million (how, I do not know — it looks like it coulda been done for $1.75), and it grossed $16 million first weekend. That’s roughly an $8 million profit, meaning that they’re about $7 million to the good. And it’s still making money (another $2 million since Mon.) and will continue to do so till Age of Ultron stomps it into the ground next Thu. night. So, yeah, there will likely be sequels. It’s in the nature of things.

          • trexguy .

            Not all the new horror looks bad. Asheville never did get WOLF COP. Modern classic. All jokes aside there are some well made modern horror films, they are just hard to find, Dead Snow, Iron Sky, Hobo With a Shotgun (only view that one on a dare) Tucker and Dale vs Evil. The latter movie was outstanding.

          • Ken Hanke

            Wait…are you T.rex or a T.rex impersonator? If you are not T.rex, then I really don’t know whether or not you cling to dubious ’80s movies. Regardless, there’s a lot of good modern horror (though I wouldn’t really apply that to the titles you cited, even if I enjoyed Hobo with a Shotgun). Unfriended is not in that group.

          • Ken Hanke

            Then you do cling to ’80s films of dubious merit.

          • trexguy .

            I assume you are referring to the recent April Fools Day. That is a masterpiece compared to this.

          • Ken Hanke

            While I would agree with that, it doesn’t make April Fool’s Day good. You can almost always cite something worse. Actually, I was thinking more of popular mediocrities like (get ready) Ghostbusters, Caddyshack, The Goonies, etc. I don’t actually know — or remember — how you feel about the last two, but my guess is that you at least like them.

          • Edwin Arnaudin

            To quote Adam Horowitz in While We’re Young, “Since when is The Goonies a good movie?”

          • Ken Hanke

            That is probably my favorite line in the movie.

          • trexguy .

            Whoaaaa, I thought we we’re discussing horror movies.
            Yes, those movies are classics. The latter is a fantastic movie for kids of any generation.

          • Ken Hanke

            No, I was talking about ’80s remnants misperceived as great films for no reason other than they were part of your childhood. I would rather show a child The Texas Chainsaw Massacre than Goonies.

  4. Melvin

    What I really want to know is how one inadvertently watches the last ten minutes of Paul Blart 2?

    • Ken Hanke

      A fair question, but one easily answered. The film had been shunted into the theater in which we have the film society screenings and scheduled rather too closely to our starting time. As a result, it was still running when I got there. I suppose it could be argued that I might have cowered in the hallway, but, in any case, I had not intended on watching any of it.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.