“Unfriended” puts horror only a mouse click away

The trick behind any good horror movie is to target the modern fears of the audience. Great films of the genre have in some way tackled the anxieties of whatever that generation (and even future generations) is going through.

In this regard, “Unfriended” works as an enticing, engrossing and effective 80-minute stir-fest that aims its guns at the fears of its young characters and audience: People finding out who they really are in a world where nothing is private.

Done entirely in an online Skype session, the movie focuses on six friends who become the target of their old classmate—Laura Barns, who killed herself after an embarrassing video went viral—now a spiteful spirit who wants revenge. As the night goes on Laura exposes secrets about each one that forces them to do rather naughty things once unveiled.

As that last sentence proved, it’s hard to talk about this movie without giving too much away. One of the most memorable parts of my experience involve curiously watching the mouse of the main character as she investigates, hesitates writing what she wants to say and reluctantly hitting send.

Though the premise may deter many who have become accustomed to straight-up demon features, there’s something immediately gripping about having to stare at a computer. That may not come as a surprise to anyone whose eyes are halfway melted out of his or her sockets from watching too many cat videos, but that’s exactly what director Levan Gabriadze planned on.

We are now hardwired to stare ceaselessly at screens, so the movie forces you to do the same here as the terror unfolds deliberately with a constant underscore of unseen menace. It doesn’t have to work hard to keep your attention. The Apple already does that for you.

When watching all the little screens filled with screaming high school students it becomes plainer than a raisin bagel that the standards of teen horror are still alive and well.

There’s the lead girl, innocent and brunette; her boyfriend, normal and innocent only in experience; his d-bag best friend who wears polos and hats facing the wrong way; the sexually adventurous blonde and; the fat-stoner-geek-comedian. There is little new done with these archetypes, but its still satisfying to see them all get picked off in gruesome ways. You can really never get enough of a good thing.

As they all sink further into the Internet crevasse of death and deception I realized that the fear it was targeting was not just technology itself, it’s how we behave on it.

As mentioned earlier, some of the more enticing moments come from the little mouse that takes over the role of the characters actions. We can see her thought process in how she wiggles it erratically or hesitates sending a message or constantly sends her boyfriend messages if he hasn’t replied in two seconds. Whether we like it or not, the frustration that comes out of not knowing what’s going on at the other end of a conversation is a modern anxiety that we can’t escape and is enough to make a horror movie out of alone. “Unfriended” is that movie, and it hits that point home in bloody good fashion.

GRADE: B+

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