Unfriended aka Cybernatural (2014)

(On Cable TV, January 2016) As noted elsewhere, I am a sucker for clever—if a movie is willing to try something different, then I’m willing to be interested. In Unfriended, a good old vengeful-ghost-takes-revenge-on-teenagers story is made almost uncomfortably of-the-moment by being presented on a laptop screen, as a few high-schoolers collectively freak out over video chat as supernatural events occur. It may sound terrible, but it’s actually handled relatively well: the transformation of dread into outright horror is precisely gradated, and if the characters’ back-story end up being reprehensible, they are distinctive and occasionally sympathetic. Props to writer Nelson Greaves and director Levan Gabriadze for daring something that feels new. I doubt that Unfriended will age very well, as instantly dated it is by its used of current technology: This is a film that could only have been made circa 2014, as the tools weren’t there in (say) 2009 and will mutate beyond recognition by 2019. Its structure is hilariously close to the ideal of the teenage horror slasher (with its initial tragedy, followed by a sequence of deaths until the final girl), but it’s made far less conventional by sheer power of novelty. The last jolt is nice, and viewers are encouraged to watch the film on a high-resolution display (i.e.; 1080 minimum and no smartphone!), for fear of missing pixel-precise screenshot details. I liked Unfriended for execution despite not caring all that much for its substance—make of that what you will in taking my opinion in consideration.

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