By JIMMY LICHTENWALTER, Features Writer
There is a great moment in the 2010 film “The Social Network” where a drug-addled Sean Parker manically proclaims, “We lived on farms, then we lived in cities and now we will live on the Internet!”
During the first 15 minutes of “Unfriended,” a teen-horror-slasher with a tech twist, this quote kept sounding in my head. The entirety of the film is comprised of a single, static shot of a teenager girl’s laptop screen.
It might sound gimmicky, and you’d be right to think so. While the film doesn’t drum up any traditional scares, it still offers some disturbing notions about people and their dependence on technology.
The premise itself is fairly simple. A year following the suicide of one of their classmates, a group of teenagers get together on Skype. The audience spends the film’s entire 83 minutes fixed upon the computer of Blaire, a former acquaintance of the deceased.
We see her flit between Skype, iMessage, Facebook, LiveLeak and Google. Soon odd occurrences online begin plaguing the group of co-eds and it becomes apparent that a menacing entity is stalking and tormenting them.
As a horror film, “Unfriended” utterly fails. It is boring, gimmicky and grows wearisome before any blood is spilled. The characters themselves are a fairly detestable crowd, unlikely to spur much sympathy from audience.
They are wealthy, whiny and severely undeveloped. I found myself actively rooting for them to meet their untimely demises.
The most talked-about aspect of “Unfriended” is certainly its format, in which the audience only experiences the events of the film through the screen of a laptop.
This gimmick outstays its welcome about a third of the way into the film. It only serves to limit the audience and hinder the plot. Yet, the film accurately captures the distracted, hyper active way today’s youth bounce around the web.
While the camera never leaves the glimmering laptop screen, Blaire darts from website to website, app to app. While I can appreciate this realism, it was overall a distracting technique.
Yet, as much as I want to, I cannot completely write off “Unfriended.” While the film fails as an effective and engaging horror film, it still finds other, more subtle ways to disturb.
I left the theater fully intending to write a negative review, but the more I thought about the film, the more I realized its merit. Returning to the line from “The Social Network,” I was disturbed by how these characters actually lived on the web.
Their lives seem to be based around and on the cloud. What’s even more disconcerting is that the filmmakers aren’t too far removed from the truth. In my theater alone, there was never a moment when someone—myself included—didn’t have their phones out, checking Facebook, texting a friend or liking an Instagram.
Herein lies the true horror of “Unfriended.” It portrays a group of people who operate, exist, live and die online. While the film fails as a conventional horror film, it certainly raises a few interesting points in the process.