Review: There’s enough to ‘like’ about “Unfriended”

Although some might see “Unfriended” as too gimmicky and predictable, the film has enough clever ideas and entertaining moments to standout on its own.

            Films that rely on gimmicks to tell their story can be tricky, but if done right can be memorable. For example, “Buried” tells the story of a man (Ryan Reynolds) who is buried alive in a box with nothing but a cell phone and a lighter. The whole film takes place within this incredibly tight space and still manages to be thrilling, inventive and entertaining.

            The plot of “Buried” is nothing too terribly original and if it was shot or written like a normal film, it probably would not have worked. The fact that it was able to use a unique gimmick and be thrilling was impressive.

            In a similar fashion, “Unfriended” uses a laptop screen to tell its mostly unoriginal story and ends up being incredibly effective.

            The story is simple: six high school friends are all enjoying a Skype group chat when they start to receive messages from a classmate who killed herself a year ago. They soon realize that it is not a prank and this person wants them to reveal their darkest secrets or die.

            The plot itself might be eye rolling, but the way that screenwriter Nelson Greaves and director Levan Gabriadze keep things moving and original is impressive. The unique ways that they use the laptop screen is something that I have never seen before and works throughout the 82 minute runtime. If the movie was presented in a typical horror movie fashion, it would not have worked, but because the gimmick is unique and fun it’s effective.

            Much like the mostly unoriginal plot, the characters and performances are things we have seen before in countless other horror films. All of the characters are extreme clichés of high school stereotypes and the performances match that. I do not see this as a negative for the film because overall it works for what it is trying to do, but it is nothing memorable and certainly is one of the weaker elements of the film.

            I will say that the filmmakers do a very nice job of making the characters incredibly unlikable, which makes the later horror beats very fun and entertaining since they are being terrorized. The terrifying situations the characters are put into are incredibly entertaining and sometimes even humorous. Sometimes the humor is unintentional (which is what happens in a lot of horror movies), but the filmmakers do a nice job of splicing in some intentional humor throughout as well (particularly when it comes to Spotify).

            Overall, “Unfriended” is very entertaining and unique when compared to most other horror movies. The characters and plot are unoriginal, but due to the film’s storytelling gimmick, it feels mostly flesh. It might not be as effective as this year’s “It Follows,” but “Unfriended” is still one of the better horror films in recent memory.

            GRADE: B