Starring: Shelly Hennig, Moses Jacob Storm, Heather Sossaman
Directed by: Leo Gabriadze (“Lucky Trouble”)
Written by: Nelson Greaves (debut)
The found footage aesthetic has been put to use in seemingly countless horror movies in the more than decade-and-a-half since “The Blair Witch Project” knocked the genre on its back. At times it has been fresh and inventive, like in most of the “Paranormal Activity” series, but by and large it has grown tiresome, a gimmick employed to cover the fact that the script is just another lame retread assemblage of hot teens, gore, and jump scares. The latest film to trod out the found footage formula, “Unfriended,” admittedly puts an interesting new spin on things—the entire movie takes place within the confines of a MacBook screen—but ultimately can’t overcome the boredom its confines create.
On the one-year anniversary of classmate Laura Barns’ (Heather Sossaman) death by suicide—a result of cyberbullying—a group of her friends that may or may not have taken part in said cyberbullying are terrorized by an unknown caller in their group Skype call (yes, really) who presents themselves as the deceased Laura. One by one, she reveals secrets about the group that point to their responsibility in Laura’s death. We see the movie from the point of view of Blaire’s (Shelly Hennig) computer screen as she toggles between Skype, Spotify, iMessage, Facebook, Google Chrome, etc., all of which are seemingly haunted by some malevolent force claiming to be Laura. Hold your breath: Laura can grey out parts of drop down boxes, ahhhhh!
As interesting as the presentation is, the premise wears thin quickly. Think about it: have you ever not lost patience watching someone’s computer screen as they try to do something? Just click that…no, not that. Click back. No, back. Up there. On the left. No…the left. Hold on, let me show you. It is absolute torture, and “Unfriended” becomes tedious quickly as Blaire switches between lots of different chat windows and Google searches and implausible anti-trojan programs. Like being a spectator for a video game, sitting for an hour and 20 minutes while someone dicks around online is boring as hell, and it leaves the viewer ample time to pick apart the ridiculousness of certain aspects, like how Blaire must be holding a five pound laptop over her head while she lies in bed or, again, why anyone would keep a camera trained on their face while they’re prowling around their house searching for a murderer. I’ll click “like” for trying something bold, but the comment I leave will be negative because it just doesn’t work. Control-alt-delete.