Unfriended – ghost in the machine

Levan Gabriadze’s film Unfriended describes the interconnections between and juxtapositions of three worlds: the virtual, the natural, and the supernatural.

The film is viewed through the lead character Shelley Hennig’s notebook screen. This inventive, and importantly, successful filming technique elevates Gabriadze’s work above similar teen-horror films. However, this filming technique counterintuitively doesn’t work when viewed on a notebook screen, the abstraction and expansion allowed by cinematic or televisual viewing is required.

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The film’s perpetrator announces itself above. The anonymity and uncertainty of its avatar-less profile giving the film one of many opportunities to compare and contrast situations between the virtual and natural worlds.

The perpetrator’s fleshing out into an identifiable person perhaps goes hand in hand with the film’s descent into familiar teen-horror territory. This term doesn’t have to be pejorative as the film’s similarities with Brian De Palma’s Carrie stand out, from the revenge motive to its execution via split-screen storytelling. Whether Unfriended stands up to Carrie is another matter, but Carrie sets a high benchmark.

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The film allows plenty of room for more day to day horrors. We’ve all experienced the rapidly escalating frustration of non response within an instant messaging session. No typing progress indicator within five seconds of my question, ‘Why aren’t you answering me???’

Scenes like this highlight another important aspect. Similar to subtitled films it’s impossible to avert your eyes from the screen for fear of missing an important detail. This is an ideal situation for a horror film (as homework watch this).

Not only as a technical note the film’s sound design impresses, keyboard feedback especially providing the metronome to the film’s anxiety.

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Moving on from typing progress indicators, the buffering spin-wheel is usually more irritating than terrifying. In this case it indicates a gruesome end for a member of the film’s tech-ed up but not entirely clued-up Scooby Gang, who despite being in a horror film has a food blender in his room. Bad move!

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It’s important to remember the film’s situation and target audience, its opening scene alone clearly indicates this is a no-adults zone. I wonder if typical teen angst scenes such as revelations of infidelity unsettled much of the audience more than other events in the film. The two characters here at least appeared more distressed at this situation than the situation of their friends dying.

Despite not finding the film too unsettling, I may allow my computer’s notification centre a more wary eye from now on. Or perhaps…

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Reference: Unfriended – Wikipedia


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