I did something today I don’t think I’ve ever done before: I saw a movie in a theater by myself. It was weird. At first I was the only person in the theater, and it would have been awesome if it had stayed that way. Eventually a few other people trickled in, spoiling my fun, but it was cool while it lasted. Also, am I creepy?
What I saw was Unfriended, a laughable title for a mediocre film. Review over!
Okay, here’s more: It’s about a girl who is mocked and humiliated by her high school “friends,” who post a video of her drunk and passed out on YouTube. In response the girl kills herself, and a year later she decides get her revenge via Skype. That’s about it. The entire movie takes place on the computer screen of Blair, the dead girl’s former bestie, as she moves between insipid Skype flirting with her boyfriend and vapid arguing with their circle of dirtbag teenage friends. There’s also some Facebooking and instant messaging and YouTubing, and then people die and it’s over. REVIEW OVER.
Okay, on the positive side, the film is pretty dead-on in its portrayal of teenage stupidity and shallowness. I’m not saying that all, or even most teenagers actually behave this way; what I’m saying is that this kind of scenario, with catty teens jockeying for popularity and bullying people and stabbing each other in the back, is familiar enough from lived experience that the film’s depiction of high school melodrama seems plausible. It’s hyperbolic, but not unfounded.
Unfriended also deserves some credit for making an actual movie out of what is pretty much a typical Thursday night for much of the population of the US (i.e., doing pointless crap on the internet). While the characters are all exceptionally unlikeable and the plot trivial, it still somehow manages to be interesting, largely because of its familiarity. Most of us are familiar with social media and internet chat programs and the like (presumably, since I’m blogging and you’re reading a blog), and watching Blair’s mouse hover hesitantly before clicking to accept the file transfer from the ghost girl’s Skype account, or reading the amateur exorcist websites she Googles when she realizes what’s happening, feels oddly right. I don’t know if this speaks to the filmmakers’ acumen or to the fact that we all spend way too much time on our computers, or both. Simultaneously the movie captures some of the weirdness of those my-computer-is-possessed Creepypasta (e.g., the username: 666 video or Sonic.exe). It would, in fact, be pretty frightening if your Skype conversation was hijacked by an unknown anonymous person, or if the routine actions of posting to Facebook or watching YouTube videos were suddenly commandeered by some external agent. Not that this is a scary movie, mind; but the scenario might be if it happened for real.
Ultimately, though, accurate is not necessarily the same as good. There’s not a frightening moment to be found–unless loud noises and lazy jump scares still get you, in which case, go home, James Wan, you’re drunk. (Incidentally, this is a Blumhouse Productions film, so there actually is an indirect Wan connection.) And the “plot” is ultimately just fluff between annoying teenagers getting offed.
At the end of the day, Unfriended may be worth a watch, but don’t be like me and see it by yourself in a theater on a Thursday afternoon. You’re better than that.