Plot: Blair (Shelley Hennig) is on video chat with her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Smith) and things start to a more risque turn, as she begins to tease him with a little skin. But before the chat can turn too erotic, the couple is interrupted by some of their friends, who want to join the group chat session. As the friends talk about recent events and make fun of each other, an unknown person also joins the chat. This newcomer has a default profile picture and doesn’t engage in the chat, but it creeps out the friends and despite their best efforts, no one can kick this person from the group session. At first they all think it is just a hacker or troll messing with them for fun, but things begin to seem quite personal, as if one of them is behind the shadiness. But is it just an elaborate prank or has the past come back to haunt these young friends?
Entertainment Value: This movie plays out on a teen’s computer screen, via chat windows, chat bubbles, web browsers, and various video content. I appreciate that an effort was made to take a unique approach, but the end result is rather anemic, a gimmick with no teeth. The narrative is thin, but the movie does well in keeping the truth hidden and possibilities open, which helps a lot. Unfriended also has an 83 minute run time, so while the movie does feel slow and drawn out, at least it isn’t bloated and packed with filler. I suppose a more interesting, dynamic narrative could make this kind of concept work better, but I found it to be a forgettable movie with a new spin on found footage, little else. The tension is minimal, thanks to melodramatic performances and the abundance of jump scares, while the anti-bullying rhetoric is glossed over and feels like an afterthought. Shelley Hennig is the lead and while she cries a lot, she brings little else to the role and the rest of the cast can’t even manage that. I do think some burden rests on the lackluster premise and script, but sometimes a good cast can make lemons out of bad found footage material. This one might have some appeal to those who love the tween driven Blumhouse approach, but otherwise, it is an interesting, but unsatisfying novelty act.
No nakedness. An early scene teases some skin, but never delivers. A little blood is seen, but given that Blumhouse seems to hate to give us even minor gore, I think we should take that as a win. The degraded visuals of the computer screen approach mean most of the detail is washed out in those moments, but some decent stuff unfolds. A blender is used to carve up a guy’s neck, a curling iron is stuck in a girl’s throat, and a bullet wound splashes a little blood, as well as other small instances. These are all brief and the nastiest elements happen off screen, but I was glad to get a little violence to spice up the mostly dull experience. The dialogue is mostly bland and forgettable, but we do have some dysfunction, slut shaming, and teen cruelty, just not enough and not intense enough to drive the score up. As for craziness, the dialogue bright spots and hilarious crying from Hennig aside, this is a straight ahead, by the book teen thriller, so not many points here.
Overall Insanity: 1/10