Saturday, October 3, 2015

Unfriended (USA, 2015)

Nine Things About the Movie Unfriended

1. This is not a great movie, but is much better than I expected. It's an innovative take on the tired "found footage" gimmick so popular in horror films today, and is an impressive attempt at a new type of storytelling.

2.  It was produced by Timur Bekmambetov, who is best known for directing the Russian fantasy/horror classics "Night Watch" and "Day Watch" a decade ago.

3. The entire movie takes place in real time, on one computer screen. All the acting is done through video chats and instant messaging. For people not used to seeing the ability of young people to casually and expertly multi-task using modern technology - or who find it annoying - the movie will be a big turn-off. But that very ability is the ironic hinge of the entire movie.

4.  The story is about five friends talking online one evening, who are joined by a mysterious sixth person connected to the one-year anniversary of the suicide of one of their classmates.

5. The smart thing for the kids to do would be to turn off their computers about 10 minutes into the movie. But of course they won't do that. They can't. Computers and phones are their interface with the world, and they attempt to negotiate the intrusions of the stranger in terms of that reality.

6. In an impressive feat of authenticity, the movie uses real programs like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Skype, Google, and even LiveLeak, instead of generic imitations that you usually find in movies.

7. The supernatural aspects of the film are stupid and boring. But I think this movie is just pretending to be a horror film. It's not actually about a spirit looking for revenge. It's about the horrific ramifications that can follow from careless and thoughtless actions.

8. The movie uses the horror genre as an entrance to explore other issues such as cyber-bullying, technology as an authentic extension of real life, the self-destructive nature of high school relationships, and the self-centered stupidity of the teenage years as a whole. In this context, the movie is actually kind of compelling.

9. If you want an actual horror film, watch something else. If you don't understand modern technology, watch something else. At it's heart, this is a Generation-Y teen movie that explores themes going all the way back to Rebel Without a Cause. But what makes this movie different (and more relevant) than those other teen films is the exploration of how fleeting teenage mood swings are no longer quickly felt and forgotten; they are too easily turned into permanent public records that can literally come back to haunt you.