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UNFRIENDED Ghostnet

Unfriended
Unfriended

Directed by Levan Gabriadze 

Starring Shelley Henning, Moses Storm, Heather Sossaman 

On the anniversary of a friend’s suicide (brought about by online abuse) a group of teens meet electronically to catch up as they usually do. Yet there is a strange interloper in the chat room, an anonymous user that appears as a glitch in their conversation, one they are unable to hang up on, and is always there in everything they do. A user that soon starts to threaten Blaire (Shelley Henning), her boyfriend (Moses Storm) and the rest of their friends with secrets from their past. A user that is using the accounts of their dead friend. A user that threatens to kill them if they hang up and, as they soon learn, apparently has the power to carry out such threats. As they struggle with the anonymous user, more of their personal secrets are revealed online and it begins to appear as if no one is either innocent or safe.

Once you put aside the fact that you are staring at a computer screen for the entirety of the run time, there is actually a very neat self-contained horror film here. Unfriended makes the most out of its limited setting, ratcheting up the tension levels very nicely as the group of friends begin to realise the predicament they are in and, worse still, why it is occurring. Soon tempers are frayed, secrets are revealed, and the group of friends begin to turn on each other, just when the stakes keep climbing higher.

At the end, Unfriended is a none too subtle parable about cyber-bullying and the cruel thoughtlessness often granted by online anonymity. Yet within the small parameters set by the film this sledgehammer approach to message seems to work. It grants a fairly realistic view of modern methods of communication and neatly crafts a traditional slasher narrative into it. Basically it is, with an anonymous user icon standing in for any sort of lurking shadowy killer. Sure the group I Know What You Did Online Last Summer of friends are largely underdeveloped, leaning heavily on the horror tropes, but it’s not like they are going to stay around long for us to get to know anyway. Unfriended‘s execution is tight and believable, giving the audience just enough plot to get by on and focusing on increasing that tension between this circle of friends and the unknown cyber-stalker, or (as things start to fall apart) within the group itself .

The setting and the approach breathe some new life into the found footage genre, probably amongst the most believable execution of such a trope we have seen, relying on its fixed view and real-time approach. The result is an interesting and tense teen slasher flick, with enough of a twist to feel fresh, and enough shocks and scares to actually be terrifying.

DAVID O’CONNELL

 

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