Having almost died a gruesome but warranted death of its own, the handheld horror sub-genre was in desperate need of an update, and that’s exactly what’s arrived in the form of Unfriended. Not since The Blair Witch Project has a film utilised the feature and its additional perks to such a degree, not only helping send a few successful shivers, but making a strong statement to a real-life horror the audience will be all too familiar with.
In what could be a respectful homage to the film that defined the sub-genre, Unfriended follows a different Blaire entirely. This one is a young girl who has a Skype conference call with her friends invaded by an unknown user. The group first believe that someone has hacked the system to troll the teens, until it announces itself as Laura Barns, a deceased class mate of theirs who committed suicide after falling victim to online bullying a year before. Pretty soon, the secrets come tumbling out about their connection to Laura, as friends turn on each other in order survive this ghost in the machine. Ctrl, Alt, Delete is simply not an option here.
As soon as our lead scream queen boots up her computer, Unfriended goes to great effort in transforming the cinema screen into a cluttered desktop, and adds a huge dose of realism by doing so. Director Levan Gabriadze has the typical teenage girls computer usage down to the finest detail. From her bookmarks, to her frantic typing skills, the familiar view makes some of the frights that bit more successful. Even the intense silences before the scares are interrupted by the computer fan, or when Blaire’s Spotify playlist gets hacked by the vengeful spirit. There simply isn’t a megabyte of memory on this thing left untouched.
Admittedly, some of the scares do feel slightly overdone, with the webcam buffering just in time to deliver the winning shot, or the build up being filmed from underneath someones chin. However the real scare lies in the statement that Unfriended makes so effectively, displaying just how simple lives can be ruined online, and how those responsible go unpunished the second they leave their keyboard.