Shelley Hennig (Ouija)
Heather Sossaman (Days of Our Lives)
Matthew Bohrer (Goliath)
Courtney Halverson (Red Clover)
Moses Storm (Correcting Christmas)
Will Peltz (In Time)
Renee Olstead (13 Going on 30)
Jacob Wysocki (Pitch Perfect)
It turns out Unfriended uses a rather unconventional format, which is something I’m always open to: the entire movie is presented as a continuous real-time view of character Blaire Lily’s (Shelley Hennig) computer screen- not once does the movie ever away or even zoom in on anything. Blaire lives in Fresno, CA where a year ago fellow high school student Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman) committed suicide after being humiliated by a video posted to YouTube (the movie wisely uses all real websites and services rather than any fictional ones) showing her passed out drunk at a party.
Her actual suicide at school also just happened to be caught on camera and uploaded on LiveLeak, which Laura looks at as the movie starts. She’s soon interrupted by a call on Skype from her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Storm), and the two flirt with each other until the call is suddenly joined in on by their friends Jess (Renee Olstead), Adam (Will Peltz) and Ken (Jacob Wysocki)- although neither of the two had done the proper clicking to bring them onboard. Even stranger is that there’s an additional silent participant in the conversation, shown only as Skype’s default avatar. None of the others can boot them out of the call, but the mysterious user soon identifies themselves (through typing) as- the deceased Laura Barns! Blaire starts getting private messages from her Facebook profile, eventually saying “I want your help”. (The movie’s title comes from Blaire “unfriending” her on Facebook, hoping that will stop the messages.) Of course the friends all think it’s really one of them playing a joke, but Mitch soon sends Blaire a link to one of the movie’s few fictional websites, which has accounts of others being messaged online by the dead and the bad things that had happened when they responded.
Blaire still thinks another of their friends is behind this, the rather stuck-up Val (Courtney Halverson) and rings her into the conversation. From here on the mysterious guest torments them increasingly, posting incriminating pictures and videos (of such shenanigans as cheating on one another) online under various names. This gets everyone agitated and some threaten to simply go off-line (the logical solution) but they’re messaged “If you hang up, all your friends will die.” The situation intensifies further when one by one, participants in the conversation mysteriously begin to disappear, with their video feeds glitching just as odd things begin to happen to them.
The entire movie runs just 82 minutes so it doesn’t out stay its welcome before it ends. One’s enjoyment of Unfriended will still depend on the willingness to accept the computer screen as the narrative, as well as the characters themselves. While not everyone will consider constantly staring at a computer screen compelling enough to warrant a movie it works well enough if you’re willing to go with it. Again I was impressed that most of the websites and such were real and not fictional, and there are plenty of details to go back and freeze-frame on and read if you’re the type who likes to examine details in movies.