Slick and digitally savvy, this is a horror thriller for the social media generation. Unfriended follows what happens when a seemingly innocent online prank spirals out of control. The film unfolds over a teenager’s computer screen as she and her friends are stalked by an unseen figure. This entity seeks vengeance for a shaming video that led a youngster to kill herself a year earlier.
On the anniversary of her death, the same friends who thought there would be no consequences to their actions will find out just how deadly wrong they were.
It’s an average school night as Blaire Lily (Shelley Hennig) and her boyfriend Mitch Roussel (Moses Storm) start an intimate video chat. Suddenly, they’re interrupted by their friends – Jess (Renee Olstead), Adam (Will Peltz), Ken (Jacob Wysocki) and Van (Courtney Halverson) – who are ready to launch into a group conversation. But into their midst comes a user known only by the moniker Billie227. They think it’s just a technical glitch and continue talking and clowning around, until Billie begins typing. What happens next is truly the stuff of nightmares.
Each of them is forced to confront their deepest, darkest secrets and lies, even if their friends suffer in the process. And there is certainly no guarantee that any of them will survive.
The story was conceived and developed by filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter). A filmmaker who splits his time between the U.S. and Russia, running companies in both countries, Bekmambetov is almost always on his computer, which is how the idea for Unfriended came about. For 15 years, the thought kept coming to him that somebody has to make a movie about the part of our lives we spend digitally connected. Nearly all of what takes place does so online – Skyping, emailing, listening to music and connecting with others through other video portals.
Unfriended is slickly produced and well paced throughout. We, the audience, are called upon to read messages as well as view the action. Part of the cleverness is in how tightly the screws are turned on these hapless kids. They are simply not equipped to deal with Billie227. Whatever they say, wherever they turn, there is no escaping the predicament in which they find themselves.
Much of the terror comes from the threats, but what violence there is isn’t pretty. The filmmakers have gone to great lengths to give keep the digital environment as real as they could. It makes you fearful to consider just how easily a situation can be manipulated for nefarious ends.
The central character Blaire, played by Shelley Hennig, goes from happy-go-lucky to scared witless in the space of 83 minutes.
Rated MA, Unfriended is well worth a look, if you aren’t too squeamish and scores a 7½ out of 10.
Director: Levan Gabriadze
Cast: Heather Sossaman, Matthew Bohrer and Courtney Halverson
Releasing in cinemas: 30 April 2015
Rated: MA 15+
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television