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Unfriended

All the world's a screen, when social media turns deadly

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This screen is haunted
  • This screen is haunted

Plot-wise, Unfriended is standard teen horror: Kids do something dumb, don't repent properly despite warnings and are killed off in variously baroque fashions (e.g., death by blender). In Levan Gabriadze's film, the killer assumes the form of a blank Skype profile and torments its victims on a six-way video chat: five friends and "that creeper Skype dude." (Like its J-horror haunted-videocassette antecedents, explanations for this killer technology aren't provided.)

What makes Unfriended fascinating for a hot minute is that the entire film takes place within the confines of a single laptop screen. The camera is essentially fixed, as the story unfolds through the five Skype screens (with their rizz-razz lo-res images) and pop-up windows running online programs such as Facebook, Spotify and Chatroulette (where one is ill-advised to seek help). It's a visual language that's spare and immediately knowable, in which backspacing conveys fear and the "setting" shifts on a click from private (messaging) to public (YouTube videos). It's narrative by way of real-time online tiling. (For wandering eyes, there's static directory and ad content around the perimeter, including a suggested video about "plating spare ribs.")

Ultimately, Unfriended is more of a laugh than a thrill, and its au courant riff on wired teens and its visual gimmicks will be stale in a matter of months. Click on it at your own risk, and remember its takeaway: DO NOT ACCEPT MESSAGES FROM THE DEAD.

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