Unfriended: A 2020-esque h

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Delaney Gorton

The 2014 supernatural horror film Unfriended has recently made an unexpected comeback in 2020, a year where this movie feels far more (in)appropriate that when it was released.

Unfriended originally premiered at the Fantasia Festival in 2014, before being released for U.S. audiences in
2015. The story was written by Nelson Greaves and directed by Levan Gabriadze.

The film portrays Courtney Halverson, Moses Storm, Shelley
Hennig, Renee Olstead, Will Peltz, and Jacob Wysocki as high school students in a Skype (remember Skype?) conversation that is haunted by another student, played by Heather Sossaman.

Through a screencast of a character’s Macbook, audiences see a user that should not be alive begin to make bolder and more vindictive moves against those that they perceive as having wronged them in life, beginning by haunting a Skype call between friends.

What makes this story so ironic to watch in 2020 is that the film is presented though a laptop screen; the movie is even spookier to watch from the screen of your own laptop computer after hopping off a Zoom call of your own.

In this way, it feels like the movie’s Skype call is to you, as you are to a podcast conversation.

However, what Unfriended gains in realism, it loses in interest. After a day of telecommuting to work or school, how many people want to be entertained by watching yet another
virtual meeting, complete with distracted clicking, waiting for things to load, and watching people type, erase, and retype messages? A brave few with a sardonic sense of humor, I suppose.

Unfriended also misses when it comes to portraying characters; not a single character in the movie is likable, and in terms of depth, if they were puddles, stepping in them wouldn’t make your socks wet.

Perhaps this was intentional, and meant to be a criticism of the shallowness and selfishness of the “modern teenager” when aided and abetted by the anonymity of the Internet, meant to play into the fear of the digital boogieman where anyone online can be a threat, but mostly, it feels flat.

In addition, none of the characters change over the course of the movie, the audience only discovers more unpleasant things about them.

It is even difficult to scare up sympathy for the bullied ghost girl taking her revenge, as the only things the audience knows about her includes the embarrassing, drunken video that prompted her suicide due to cyberbullying, her suicide, and her agonizing and ruthless revenge that isn’t even interesting to watch onscreen.

Overall, I would not recommend this movie to others. It is not visually compelling, nor do the annoying, shallow, characters bring anything to the table.

The story leans hard on suspense it fails to make through tiny, glitchy Skype windows and the “excitement” of scenes including character death.

However, for those looking to experience the meta irony of watching a movie like this on their Netflix app on their laptop in 2020, I wouldn’t dissuade them.