Combustible Celluloid
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With: Shelley Hennig, Moses Jacob Storm, Will Peltz, Jacob Wysocki, Renee Olstead, Heather Sossaman, Courtney Halverson
Written by: Nelson Greaves
Directed by: Levan Gabriadze
MPAA Rating: R for violent content, pervasive language, some sexuality, and drug and alcohol use - all involving teens
Running Time: 82
Date: 04/17/2015

Unfriended (2015)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Crime Screen

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

At its core, Unfriended is just another variation on the old Friday the 13th theme, wherein misbehaving teens pay the ultimate price via a supernatural killer. But the catch here is that virtually the entire movie takes place on a single computer screen, with shifting windows, YouTube videos, Spotify music, Facebook photos, text messages, web browsers, and characters appearing and disappearing through Skype chats. (The recent Open Windows tried something similar, but was far less successful.)

Fresno high schooler Blaire (Shelley Hennig) settles in for an evening on her computer, texting her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm), with whom she plans a magical prom night, and Skyping with her best friends. Unfortunately, a mysterious intruder appears on their group chat, and nothing the friends do can get rid of him/her. Meanwhile, Blaire is receiving strange Facebook messages from one Laura Barns, who committed suicide one year ago to the day. The "ghost" makes her intentions known by causing the death of a teen girl, whose final moments the friends can see on their webcams. The intruder promises that the same will happen to the others, unless they play a game. Will the truth come out before it's too late?

Filmmakers often describe how low budgets and limited resources spur creativity, and that's certainly the case here; without a visible cut, director Levan Gabriadze builds rhythms with the sounds of frantic clicking and the desperate clacking of keyboards, and the screen is always in motion, with counting down timers adding to the suspense. Strangely enough, it works, and it can be quite gripping and chilling. Unfriended doesn't feel like a groundbreaker, but it's a successful one-off experiment.

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