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“Unfriended” movie review

By Jeff Boudreaux

Unfriended

“Unfriended” re-teams the producer and a star of last year’s bomb “Ouija” with some surprising results. This time, instead of having a Hasbro board game as a backdrop, Jason Blum takes us into more relevant territory for teenagers, namely Facebook, YouTube, and Google Chrome to deliver an effective horror movie that simply hasn’t been done before. In fact, it plays like a Skype version of “Ten Little Indians.” I’m sure that got your attention, right? And by the way, just as you may have surmised from the previews, all of the action does indeed take place on a computer screen. There will be no accolades doled out for cinematography or set design. Does it matter? Not in the least, because this is top-notch horror.

Shelley Hennig leads the cast as Blaire, a normal teenage girl that happens to have a normal teenage boyfriend, Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm). The two enjoy talking to, as well as tantalizing each other through the wondrous invention known as Skype. Unfortunately, they can never get past a PG-13 video chat, due to the party-line of Skype friends who apparently love to dial up the duo in unison. Pretty soon, Blair and Mitch’s friends Adam, Jess, Ken, and Val join the fray on what happens to be the one-year anniversary of the suicide of a disgraced girl named Laura Barns. The video chat is fun for everyone until an unknown user appears in their call and is thereby connected to all of their accounts.

The unwanted guest starts causing tension among the group by pointing out certain secrets that only Laura Barns and her tormentors would have known. In fact, the unknown user goes as far as claiming to be Laura Barns. But, how can that be? She’s been dead for a year. It must be someone playing a prank. Or maybe it’s not. Deleting this person from the party-line is futile, and the mysterious account appears to have administrative privileges over each one of these kid’s computers. Mitch advises Blair to simply “unfriend” Laura on Facebook. Bad move. This is when things start to become deadly serious, and friendships start unraveling when “Laura” makes her presence known in their actual homes in addition to their computer screens.

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One of the amazing things about this film is that everything takes place throughout the course of one night. There are no cutaways, no “later that evening.” We see the faces of six friends initially from the vantage point of Blaire’s laptop computer. We see clicks, copying and pasting, minimized windows, playlist selections, downloaded videos, instant messaging, and it’s the most amazing thing because we do this ourselves on a day-to-day basis. Well, everything except communicate with and/or be tormented by a dead person. And with all of the in-your-face technology aspect, there isn’t a single moment where I can say that this film drags. It reels you in from the get-go and doesn’t let up until the credits roll. Sort of like a cyberspace version of “The Blair Witch Project,” a film to which the TV spots so graciously alludes to!

As I mentioned earlier, this marks a real horror winner for Blumhouse productions, who can sure use it after several dogs in a row such as “Ouija,” “Jessabelle,” and “The Lazarus Effect.” This also marks the American directorial debut for the Russian-born Levan Gabriadze, who directed the Russian comedy “Lucky Trouble” starring Milla Jovovich in 2011. (Did we forget that she was originally from the Ukraine?) Co-starring a very bright young cast including Will Peltz, Renee Olstead, and Jacob Wysocki, “Unfriended” delivered on all cylinders. It was scary, funny, amusing and disturbing, at the same time. What more can you ask for?

*** (three out of four stars)

 

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