HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: UNFRIENDED

CAST

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)

Courtney Halverson, Will Peltz, Jacob Wysocki, and Moses Storm in Unfriended (2014)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.

REVIEW: THE SECRET CIRCLE

 

CAST

Britt Robertson (Tomorrowland)
Thomas Dekker (Terminator: TSCC)
Phoebe Tonkin (The originals)
Shelley Hennig (Ouija)
Jessica Parker Kennedy (Smallville)
Louis Hunter (Out of The Blue)
Chris Zylka (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Ashley Crow (Heroes)
Natasha Henstridge (Species)
Gale Harold (Fertile Ground)

The Secret Circle (2011)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Emily Holmes (Dark Angel)
Adam Harrington (Stargate SG.1)
Logan Browning (Powers)
Tom Butler (Blade: The Series)
Zachary Abel (My Alibi)
Ben Cotton (Stargate: Atlantis)
Camille Sullivan (The Birdwatcher)
JR Bourne (Arrow)
Hiro Kanagawa (Izombie)
John de Lancie (Star Trek: TNG)
Joe Lando (Star Trek IV)
Luisa d’Oliveira (The 100)
Richard Harmon (Bates Motel)
Alexia Fast (Manhattan)
Chad Rook (War For The Planet of The Apes)
Andrea Brooks (Supergirl)
Elise Gatien (Smallville)

The Secret Circle (2011)

Following the death of her mother, Cassie Blake (Britt Robertson) moves to Chance Harbor, Washington, to live with her grandmother. Her attempts to adjust to the new town are crushed when five of her classmates, Adam Conant (Thomas Dekker), Diana Meade (Shelley Hennig), Faye Chamberlain (Phoebe Tonkin), Melissa Glaser (Jessica Parker Kennedy), and Nick Armstrong (Louis Hunter), reveal to Cassie that she comes from a long line of witches and is the final member of their coven; with her they are able to unlock the full extent of their powers. Initially Cassie refuses to believe that she is a witch, even after Adam helps her to unlock her powers. It is only after she discovers an old leather-bound book of spells left to her by her late mother, Amelia, that Cassie begins to accept her power. Inside the book is a message to Cassie explaining that she kept their real family history and her powers a secret in order to keep her safe; as the circle soon finds out, their powers attract dark and dangerous forces that constantly puts them in harm’s way.Unfortunately for the would-be coven, Cassie’s presence may have come too late. The group’s bond is already breaking due to a conflict between the well-intentioned Diana and wild-child-in-the-making Faye (Phoebe Tonkin), who, after setting Cassie’s car on fire and summoning up a massive storm.The Secret Circle (2011)And, as always, teenage hormones add to the overall confusion as Diana’s boyfriend Adam (Thomas Dekker) takes a shine to Cassie – making an ill-advised pass at her while in the midst of making some water droplets float in air. However, all of this is small potatoes as the The Secret Circle’s real big bads are revealed to be many of the teen witches’ parents – headed up by Diana’s father Charles (Gale Harold) and Faye’s mother/high school principal Dawn Chamberlain (Natasha Henstridge).Britt Robertson and Shelley Hennig in The Secret Circle (2011)Overall, The Secret Circle comes off as a fun teen-angst program that successfully utilizes its inherent appeal to the core demographic, without alienating anyone else that might be casually tuning in. It was a huge hit but then the CW decided to cancel it, and didn’t even release a DVD of it.