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Cyber thriller Unfriended

Film & TV

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Teenager Laura Barns took her own life after a video anonymously posted online caused her to become the target of cyberbullying. Now, on the one-year anniversary of her death, she is about to reconnect with some old friends.

Val, Blaire, Mitch, Adam, Jess and Ken are talking on Skype when they notice a seventh, uninvited caller is listening in. When the teens discover “Billie227” is using Laura’s social media accounts, they believe they are the target of a sick joke. But then they receive a threatening ultimatum – play the game or die.

The group is soon locked in a deadly psychological game which forces them to reveal their darkest secrets. As the game intensifies and the body count rises, it becomes clear nowhere is safe in cyberspace.

Unfriended is clearly targeted at today’s social-media-savvy youth and the entire film plays out over Blaire’s computer screen. A series of screen shots enables the audience to track Blaire’s movements as she effortlessly switches between Skyping her friends, privately messaging boyfriend Mitch on Google Chat, replying to Facebook messages and watching videos on YouTube.

Much of the interaction between the characters takes place via instant messages, and while the abbreviated text talk is second nature for young audiences, it may pose a challenge for other viewers.

The teens’ computers experience buffering, which causes their screens to freeze, black out or lose sync, and this technique helps to build the suspense; it’s often what they audience doesn’t see that scares them. The film offers only fleeting glimpses of the violence that unfolds, and there is a “paranormal activity” feel to it.

With Russian director Leo Gabriadz at the helm, Unfriended features a cast of mostly little-known young actors, including Heather Sossaman, who gives a brief but memorable performance as Laura Barns, Shelley Hennig as the seemingly sweet and innocent Blaire, and Will Peltz as egotistical bad boy Adam.

More psychological thriller than horror, the film is a tense viewing experience and its message about the impact of cyberbullying should resonate with its target audience.



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