Not the worst thing you’ll see all week: Unfriended

, | Movie reviews

To enjoy Unfriended, which is feasible without lumping it into the “so bad it’s good” category, you have to accept a few things. First, it’s about dumb kids. The setting is social media, so that’s expected. But this is also a slasher movie, so the dumb kids are mandatory. Second, it’s committed to its gimmick, so you can’t expect any more than you’d expect from, say, a found footage movie. And third, it’s not good so much as admirably competent for a movie built around a gimmick. Despite the dumb kids and the gimmick, it’s very solidly an R-rated horror movie.

Unfriended relies on a mundane familiarity with Skype, Gmail, Youtube, Facebook, and so forth (either Twitter wasn’t on board or these kids don’t Tweet). It relies on the sounds, the interfaces, the rhythm of copy pasting, alt tabbing, the hitch of a bad connection, how someone might swirl her cursor around before clicking on something. This is the language of Unfriended, a logical next step after the social media mystery Catfish. It plays particularly well streaming to a computer. Ideally, a laptop. I would have felt awfully foolish seeing this in a theater.

Nacho Vigolando did something similar with Open Windows, an Elijah Wood Hitchcockian thriller that goes off the rails and dares you to object as it gets increasingly silly. But Unfriended’s “is it supernatural?” angle lets it get away with a little more. The ensemble cast, convincingly led by Shelley Hennig who could very well kick off a scream queen career, is enough to pad out its 80-minute running time. Contrast this with the brevity of the memorable segment in VHS called “The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger”, which is a Skype call between two people.

Sure, it’s cheap. But it’s effective, with its share of easy puzzles and expected twists. The inevitable movies that will use this gimmick from here on out are probably going to be a whole lot worse. You might as well get in while the getting’s still good.

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