Saturday, 30 January 2016


similar to open windows, unfriended is a story that unfolds entirely on a computer screen, mostly through a video chat between five friends. the film opens with the suicide of a teenage girl and the revelation that the suicide was the result of online bullying by her peers. over the course of a single night five friends are seemingly contacted by the dead girl and she wants to play a game with them.

it was interesting watching this film immediately after seeing open windows, because in many ways they're quite similar. the difference is that unfriended gets a couple of things right that open windows got wrong. first of all, the camera is fixed and while our focus is somewhat directed by the character manipulating the windows on the screen, we do choose what to look at to an extent. however, the main thing that makes unfriended work is that the characters are well-written and there is an emotional intensity to the performances that really makes them feel real.

if you strip away the format, unfriended is nothing more than a straightforward slasher film. cyberbullying has been covered by slasher films before, in the movie smiley face and probably others. the key to a good slasher films isn't great kills or an interesting new monster, it's good characters. if we care about the characters we care about what happens to them and we don't want them to die. so many slasher films get this wrong, presenting us with a host of obnoxious teens in the misguided belief that the audience takes some pleasure in watching these kids being killed in the most gruesome way possible. it doesn't matter how good the kills are, we need to care about the person being threatened with death. this is why unfriended works.

the relationship between the characters and the way they talk to each other feels real, and this is enhanced by the format. essentially this is one long conversation and could almost be done as a stageplay. making 90 minutes of straight dialogue work and seem real in a horror film is not easy to do, but the acting, direction and script are strong enough here to pull it off. this means there's an emotional intensity to the scenes that adds more tension than the impending carnage.

at its heart this is a film about teenage friendship and what happens when that friendship is tested. it's a character piece, and to be honest would have worked even without the slasher element. i thought it was a really accomplished, innovative and well performed piece of drama and for that reason it's worth checking out.

the found footage blogathon will run from 27th january to 3rd february, in which time i plan to review as many films as possible and maybe throw in a few extras as well. if you'd like to be involved and post your own content, send me a link via twitter with the tag #foundfootageblogathon. i'll retweet your link and will include it in a summary post next week. you can find a full list of the films i'll be reviewing here.


  1. i agree that the characters are what make this film work. with it follows, i didn't care about the characters, so that film didn't work for me. i read that the lead actress in unfriended has some tragedy in her life, and she seemed to be channeling that in her performance. in the great backcountry, the film opened with a hilarious, charming scene which made me really like the characters, so it was terrifying when they encountered danger. i noticed you used no caps. i sometimes do that when i'm writing a screenplay or novel. it helps the ideas flow faster. is that why you do it?.............todd mcgorry (max washington on you tube)

    1. thanks for the comment, that's interesting that the actress may have been drawing on real tragedy. i agree with you on it follows - i love the film because the idea is so fucking cool, but yeah, they made it hard to care about anyone. i don't know why i don't use caps, i think i started doing it because amanda palmer does it on her blog, and then once i'd committed to it i couldn't really go back.