When an entire movie takes place on a high school student’s computer screen, it’s easy to expect the film to be dumb or cheesy. Actually, the presentation of Unfriended is rather clever.
For those of us who spend hours each day in front of a computer screen, with pings and bells alerting us to new emails, Facebook notifications and other updates, Unfriended takes place in a familiar, generally comfortable setting.
Unfriended is a short movie. Runtime from the first Universal logo to the first end credit is 77 minutes. A longer telling of this story could’ve easily become bloated and tedious.
Unfriended’s tale plays out during a Skype video chat among six friends, plus one mystery participant. The stranger who butts in seems to be a student who killed herself after being shamed in a Youtube video.
Blaire Lily’s (Shelley Hennig) Apple computer screen reveals the Youtube videos depicting the shaming of Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman) and her suicide. The screen also displays Blaire’s outside-the-chat messaging with her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm) where suspicions of something weird first arise.
Facebook plays a big role as Laura (or someone who has hacked her account) keeps messaging Blaire, even after Blaire unfriends her.
When this mystery online intruder begins a cruel game and threatens to kill chat participants, tension mounts and secrets are revealed.
Director Levan Gabriadze makes the film look seamless, as if it were completely shot in real time. The other main cast members (Renee Olstead, Courtney Halverson, Jacob Wysocki and Will Peltz) interact believably with Hennig and Storm. (As is usual with movies depicting high school students, most of the actors are in their mid to late 20’s.)
It’s weird enough to get Facebook friend requests from deceased individuals. (I’ve had that happen.) My hope is that any laptop grief I experience today will be the result of glitches, not due to meddling with my accounts from beyond the grave.