By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Four Beers) –
Matias has just booted up his new Macbook that he “bought on Craigslist”. He logs into his ill-gotten computer and wastes no time in logging into the user profile of the original owner “Norah C”. While casually going through the owner’s files including logging into Norah C’s Facebook profile, Matias is multitasking, entering a Skype chat with his friends to play “Cards against Humanity”, while also trying to make up with his girlfriend via Facebook. Norah C. begins communicating with Matias through a friend’s Facebook, demanding the laptop back. And then Matias discovers that the owner has hidden a great deal of video files on the hard drive, which when uncovered expose a disturbed and horrifying secret about the owner.
A Terabyte of dog videos?
Credit where credit is due, the Unfriended series is a unique entry into the “Found Footage” subgenre of horror. In today’s plugged-in culture, where people spend most of their time on a computer, the idea of staging a horror film entirely through the view of a user’s computer screen is inventive. This sequel attempts to ground it in further reality by dispensing with supernatural elements and instead mining the real-world black market of underground sharing of videos depicting illegal activity. The premise is genuinely unsettling, and the way the events of the film unfold in real time further lends to the credibility of the concept.
Smile for the Blue Man Group Creeper
Credibility is unfortunately where the problems begin; despite all these efforts to make the film feel like watching a screen share of a person’s laptop computer, there are numerous artificial elements that break the illusion. For starters, there are the weird sound effects added to some computer actions that simply do not happen in real life, something any Mac user would recognize. Also the mouse arrow moves in a very static way and with startling accuracy, not at all like a real person browsing the web, particularly in a panic.
If you consider these nitpicks, then add to it the hacking elements. The film’s biggest plot twists are the result of computer hacking that is so efficient and miraculous that it is a wonder the hacker doesn’t have anything better to do than fuck with the lives of a handful of 20-something douchebags. The fact that the hacker is able to post Facebook private messages from himself within a conversation he isn’t a part of is unbelievable enough. That he can make his messages delete themselves instantly after reading without leaving any trace is another. Magical hackers are a common trope in film, and one that is easily cast aside when it speeds up the story progression, but when your entire film is concentrated on a single user’s computer desktop it becomes hard to ignore.
I can forgive the performances feeling somewhat overwrought. The static webcam isn’t a particularly dynamic visual medium, so if the characters emotional reactions to things were played 100% real it might not make for the most compelling film. But like so many bad horror movies, these characters also make really really bad decisions. The occasional bad decision is only human, but everyone in the film seems to aggressively take the worst possible path to approaching any situation. Several of these characters are shown to be pretty intelligent, but apparently not smart enough (or they’re at least superhumanly gullible enough) to get the authorities involved the minute they see a video of a person being tortured.
No way this conversation could possibly lead to criminal proceedings.
While it is understandable that a film taking place entirely on on a computer screen would have plenty of mainstream products featured, the way in which many of the programs are presented feel obligatory. It is almost as if Google, Skype, and Facebook directed the filmmakers to demonstrate specific aspects of their programs in order to allow them to be featured.
Blumhouse has crafted a movie that is sure to please found-footage horror fans with its unique take on the subgenre. If you can ignore the over the top acting, the comical “magical hacker” tropes, and the fact that the script requires the characters to make completely unrealistic decisions… Still, there is enough creativity give it a streaming recommendation.
Unfriended: Dark Web (2018) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time a major computer application is name-dropped
Drink a Shot and Pour One Out: for character deaths
Take a Drink: whenever something is hidden by magical pixelation
Do a Shot: for product placement.