New film brings surprising twist to ‘found footage’ horror

by Student Writer Shaun Swinehart

Anyone looking for a fresh take on the “found footage” horror subgenre, “Unfriended” is worth checking out. Director Levan Gabriadze did an excellent job with directing a film in a genre where the scariest part of the movie is usually how hard the metaphorical dead horse gets beat; however, “Unfriended” is a refreshingly creative and genuinely creepy addition to horror as a whole.

“Unfriended” is set in one girl’s laptop screen during a Skype conversation between five friends (Blaire, Mitch, Jess, Ken and Jason) on the anniversary of their friend Laura’s suicide. While they acknowledge the date, none of the friends seem too grievous about their late friend, being more concerned about joking around, gossip and what they are doing for the weekend.

They find a glitch with the conversation and decide to ignore it until it claims to be their expired friend. Laura’s ghost proceeds to use the group of friends’ different profiles on assorted social media to post embarrassing, shameful and even dark secrets about the friends, causing tension among the group.

Things take a turn for the worse when Laura forces the friends to play the game “Never Have I Ever,” a drinking game in which the loser drinks if he or she has done five things that are brought up. The difference in Laura’s version is the loser dies. The questions Laura asks cause strain among the group of friends, creating emotional rifts while their chances to win the game dwindle with each question.

The theme of the movie revolved around cyberbullying and the effects it can have on young people. The relevance of the issue helps the movie hit close to home, adding another necessary layer of relatability to the horror of the movie.

The use of the computer, surprisingly, also added another layer of connection to the main character, Blaire. This shows the audience her thought process and struggle to make hard decisions while talking to the ghost of Laura Barns.

The pacing was slow at first, picking up at the end, leading the movie from an ominous feeling to a feeling of complete hopelessness for the characters. The soundtrack was not by any means prevalent in the movie but when it was noticeable, it caused predictability. Whenever the music was noticeable, something bad was obviously about to happen. The Skype conversations were a good reason to keep the cameras on each character. In similar films, characters often carry cameras for no reason, which would lead to the character running around with a camera goofily as ghosts chased him or her around.

The “found footage” genre is extremely overdone, but this should not keep anyone from missing out on a solid horror experience in “Unfriended.”