By the time 2014 rolled around, the found-footage genre was a tired gimmick. Found-footage films felt fresh and new when The Blair Witch Project came in 1999; however, it wore out its welcome before Unfriended came out. The 2014 horror movie subverted the overall gimmick by using Skype as the way for audiences to witness the horrific events that were taking place in real time. Unfriended is about a group chat that’s interrupted by a user only known as Billie27. The real horror begins once this unknown assailant starts picking off the group of teenagers one by one. In theory, this premise shouldn’t work; In fact, Unfriended seemed like a movie that was destined to be trashed by critics and fans.
Surprisingly, the new found-footage gimmick received high praise from most critics, though based on the 37% audience score on rotten tomatoes, it appears that the horror film wasn’t a big hit with the common folks. The 2014 film was a solid hit, garnering nearly 62 million worldwide based on a budget of $1 million. The new twist on the found-footage genre hasn’t exactly caught fire as its sequel, Unfriended: Dark Web bombed at the box office. However, that doesn’t mean that the quality of the movie is bad. So, is Unfriended an overrated horror movie? Let’s dive deeper into the found-footage film.
Generally speaking, Unfriended isn’t a BAD film. However, the problem is that it’s just not a scary one. Using Skype as the main source is actually not the issue here. The filmmaker’s found a clever way to incorporate it into the film and while it does have its problems here and there, the overall experience is not as bad as it could’ve been. However, Unfriended does have several moments that require you to not use brain cells. For instance, the most obvious solution should’ve been addressed: Why don’t these teenagers just turn off their computers? Yes, the glitch can’t be blocked on Skype; however, these technological issues could’ve been solved had these “geniuses” simply turned off their computers. This effectively dampens the experience because it requires a suspension of disbelief in order to enjoy the film. The found-footage genre, in general, tends to have moments that don’t make sense, namely situations where you question why the camera is being recorded; however, by not addressing why these victims couldn’t simply turn off their computers in Unfriended, it leaves a black cloud over the film until the end credits roll.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t enjoyable moments in the 2014 horror film. The acting is pretty solid, especially from Shelley Hennig. The actress brings her A-game and we as the audience truly believe her world is crumbling because her emotions to the situation feel authentic and real. There are genuine moments of suspense thanks to the clever uses of technology. The filmmakers were also smart enough not to take this premise too seriously as there are several comedic moments that ease the tension. The message is actually a pretty darn good one and it’s nice that Unfriended isn’t a horror movie about some crazed cyber-killer on a rampage.
The kills are pretty sweet, though there’s nothing exactly mind-blowing or highly memorable. Again, there are moments where the film doesn’t make sense. Exactly how did Laura get footage of Blaire and Adam having sex? Moments like these are never questioned, which again, require a suspension of disbelief. Another glaring problem is that the characters are completely unlikeable. As secrets are exposed throughout the film, it’s becomes extremely hard to sympathize with anyone onscreen because everyone comes across as upscale douchebags. I do understand that this was the filmmaker’s intention and the movie overall comes with an important and positive message. However, the issue is that we’re forced to follow these “victims” for 1hour 23minutes, and that’s a long time to spend with deplorable people. Horror movies tend to be about the kills, and that’s fine, but the characters don’t have to be complete a**holes so we can root for their deaths. It becomes an unpleasant experience when you’re only watching deplorable people who happen to get worse the more their secrets come to light. That ending was a bit of a mess. Laura exposing the footage that shows Blaire behind the video was actually great; however, the supernatural non-sense just doesn’t make sense. It’s really the only moment that felt unreal and does flatten the film overall. In the end, Unfriended is a solid entry and the filmmakers do a great job of using their unique premise effectively. However, Unfriended is never truly scary, thus the 2014 feature is a bit overrated.
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