Levan Gabriadze’s Unfriended plays delightfully with the paranoia of the young and naive in what is a teen-tastically creepy internet-based paranormal revenge flick doused with an eerie sense of reality.
Through the realms of a haunted Skype session, a group of high school chums are picked off one by one by a vengeful (and very dead) former classmate, Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman). This extraordinary group chat takes place on the first anniversary of Laura’s death, who committed suicide after receiving online abuse. Centred around the laptop of Blair Lily (Shelley Hennig) – a pretty, popular high schooler and former childhood BFF of Laura – the culpability of each chat member is examined and tested through the powers of the World Wide Web, as the friends soon discover that they’re not so innocent (in more ways than one) after all.
Staring at a computer screen for 83 minutes has not been so engaging since the geek god’s gave us Netflix, but Gabriadze has flipped a formalistic teen chiller idea on its overused head by dragging it webcam first into the 21st century. Juggling the usual American high school clichés of popularity, sex and extreme bitchiness to deadly effect, Unfriended is like the hi-tech mash-up of Paranormal Activity and Saw (when both were actually good, of course), as the deceased classmate chillingly informs her blubbering former acquaintances through the medium of her Skype account: “tonight we’re going to play a game.”
The ever-annoying loading symbol and frozen screens are now the sign of impending doom as the group of school friends are given their just desserts through various social media channels. As the paranoia sets in, the spookiness kicks up a notch as bumps-in-the-night and other stereotypical ghoulish goings-on are exchanged for revealing YouTube videos, dodgy Facebook pics. and ironic (and hilariously timed) music selections.
This modernised payback movie builds up the suspense at a brisk pace, and although there’s a teaspoon sized sense of predictability surrounding it all, the Russian filmmaker delivers game-changing moments to wince-worthy perfection. It really is a shame that it’s spoilt by its painfully out of sync final few seconds, but Unfriended, in its own simplistic, yet intelligent way, is one of the most engaging and enjoyable teen horrors of recent times.