Review: — 'Unfriended' brings horror online

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

"Unfriended" is a gimmick movie where the gimmick works but the movie doesn't.

It unfolds in real time, uninterrupted, entirely on the computer screen of one character, Blaire (Shelley Hennig), whose best friend Laura committed suicide a year earlier after an incident of cyber-bullying. The movie follows Blaire — or at least her screen — as she Skypes with friends, fiddles with Facebook, plays songs on Spotify and checks her Gmail, actions which are generally frowned upon inside movie theaters.

All of which would be incredibly dull — who goes to the movies to watch someone check their email? — but some supernatural weirdness spices up the proceedings. Turns out Blaire is getting messages and Skype calls from a mysterious party who may or may not be Laura, and when her friends start mysteriously going offline, it appears the afterlife has pretty good Wi-Fi.

Given that he has so little to work with, director Levan Gabriadze keeps the tension level high until logic starts poking wormholes into the story. "Unfriended" avoids commenting on the way teenagers interact through their screens — although it's funny to watch panic ensue whenever a chat goes silent for more than three seconds — but if it has a point about the way we treat people online, it's lost in an illogical ghost story that never bothers explaining itself.

Yet its bare-bones approach to storytelling is something of a revelation, even if its visuals tie it to 2015 the same way "The Net" is tied to 1995. The same way "The Blair Witch Project" kicked off a wave of found footage-style films, "Unfriended" could jumpstart a new trend: Computer-screen horror, which will play even better on a laptop, phone or iPad. Talk about scary.



Rated R: For violent content, pervasive language, some sexuality, and drug and alcohol use - all involving teens

Running time: 82 minutes