Horror films are the only genre of cinema where there is a huge gap in regards to originality. Many horror films stick to the same cliched conventional tropes, while others are entirely original and unique and revolutionary. Unfriended definitely belongs in the realm of the latter, and is one of the most impressive horror films of recent years, maybe not in story, but rather in execution.
The concept of the “found footage” horror film was popularized years ago by The Blair Witch Project. Since then, there have been hundreds of imitators and homages. This isn’t a major problem, as I am a fan of faux-documentaries, and I think they can be wildly original and often incredibly scary. However, it becomes a bit stale after a while, so it goes without saying that when something like Unfriended comes along and takes the general concept of a found-footage horror film and turns it completely around into something original as this, then it is impossible not to take note.
Essentially, this entire film takes the form of a laptop screen. From beginning to end, we are presented with a film that tells its story in a way unique to 21st century sensibilities. Instead of characters communicating in person, it takes the approach of being more realistic, and showing how many people communicate with each other through social media and webcam conversations. This does sound dreadfully boring, and in theory it is a really bland concept – how can a film like this possibly be interesting? However, if you are willing to suspend disbelief, this film will definitely strike you as being one of the most original of the year.
The film definitely does not shift too far from the conventional horror film tropes. The film has the cliched rowdy bunch of teenagers, with the traditional “couple-in-love”, the sinister best friend, the floozy and the all-knowing nerd. Then one by one, they get killed off, until we are left with only one. Like all horror films, secrets come out and the truth is revealed. It is possible, if you’ve seen enough slasher films, to figure out the pattern in which the characters are going to be killed off, and who the final character is. Of course, it also inverts the slasher cliche of having a victorious final girl, and in quite a rare slasher twist, the surviving character doesn’t quite survive. Unfriended can be seen as both a great addition to the slasher genre, but also a great critique of the slasher genre as well, which is fantastic.
I think Unfriended is a unique film. I loved it, but I am aware that many people will be bored with it. It is strictly for slasher fans or those who want to see a very different kind of horror film. Others might be bored by the constant feeling of being on a computer, and one can’t be blamed for that. I thought Unfriended was a wonderfully twisted and original piece of horror cinema, and while it may not be a masterpiece of the genre, it was a fun, scary and strangely addictive film. I just hope a whole string of imitators don’t arise out of this, because that will just be dreadful.