“Unfriended” brings ghost story to Millennial age
“Unfriended” chronicles the story of six friends who participated in the internet shaming of one Laura Barnes by commenting on an embarrassing YouTube video of Laura. Their bullying drove the girl to suicide — an event recorded on a cellphone and uploaded to the internet for the morbidly curious to see and comment on.
One year later, while the friends are on a Skype chat, an anonymous visitor interrupts claiming to be Laura, setting off a horrifying night of secrets revealed and murder in the name of vengeance.
The conceit of the movie is that we’re watching the events unfold on the computer monitor of one of the characters. This draws us in as willing participants as we see multiple screens open and close, private messages, iTunes play and the like.
I can see how this could turn off the non-Millennial viewer unfamiliar with these activities. It also doesn’t help that with so many screens open, one loses a sense of direction as to where the eye should flow.
But that’s the point.
That’s the multi-tasking, short attention span world in which these characters — and by extension, Millennials — live.
Writer Nelson Greaves of the “Sleepy Hollow” TV show perfectly captures this world, and then grafts the classic vengeful ghost storyline onto it. It’s right up there with how the “Ringu” series captured the idea of watching a forbidden videotape back in the heyday of that medium.
I will throw out one caveat; “Unfriended” falls into the teen slasher trap of having under-developed characters. We feel a little something for leads Mitch and Blaire just because they’re boyfriend and girlfriend. However, their friends are just… there. And with some of the animosity that flares between them, it’s a wonder why they’re even friends at all.
Greaves and director Levan Gabriadze seem more interested in their movie’s visual conceit than the people on the screen.
They can’t all be the “Silence of the Lambs” of horror movies. But “Unfriended” entertains all the same with enough suspense and gore to keep the average horror fan happy.
Some friends of mine wrote off “Unfriended” as a teen slasher pic with no appeal to older viewers. Sure, Skype, YouTube, Facebook are all tools associated with the Millennial crowd. But anybody over the age of thirty who tells you they don’t use or are at least familiar with these brands is lying.
And yes, “Unfriended” was originally entitled “Cybernatural” and slated as a straight-to-MTV movie. However, the success of early screenings brought Universal’s attention and earned the movie a major theatrical release.
In today’s age of anonymous internet trolling, shaming and Gamergate-style personal attacks, the “Unfriended” ghost’s tactics hit very close to home, making “Unfriended” a movie to which an audience of any age can relate.