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UNFRIENDED

SYNOPSIS: Blaire (Shelley Hennig) and boyfriend Mitch (Moses Storm) are video chatting, when they are joined online with friends Jess (Renee Olstead), Adam (Will Peltz), Ken (Jacob Wysocki) and Val (Courtney Halverson). Then an unknown user, Billie227 joins in the chat, revealing dark secrets. Are they dealing with an evil spirit and what is the connection is Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman), a girl who killed herself a year ago?

Review by Louise Keller:
There are enough truths and scares in this teen horror flick to make anyone jumpy, all the action taking place online and through social media. Skype, facebook, Youtube, Google, Chrome, Spotify and Messenger are the conduits for the story which unfolds through a computer screen belonging to one of the characters. Nelson Greaves screenplay is clever in that it cajoles us by utilising all today's familiar internet tools, while director Levan Gabriedze builds up the tension to screaming point. It's well done but whether the concepts of betrayal as depicted by this nasty snuff revenge movie is a positive influence for the young target market, is questionable.

When the film begins, Blaire (Shelley Hennig) and her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Storm) are playfully engaging in Skype cybersex foreplay. The split screen, the ringing tone and the text messaging: everything is familiar. When their friends Jess (Renee Olstead), Adam (Will Peltz) and Ken (Jacob Wysocki) join them along with Val (Courtney Halverson), it's all fun and games and the mood is casual. Just a bunch of kids fooling around on the internet. It starts getting creepy when the unknown user calling itself Billie 227 starts stalking them and sending text messages. The connection is quickly made to Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman), the girl who committed suicide a year earlier and the creepy messaging begins. Is this demonic possession?

In his low-budget film, Gabriedze uses all the tools at hand to build up a feeling of unease: a dog barking, the distorted screen image, static, faces going in and out of frame. There is tension as we wait for a file to download. We toggle back and forth from the Skype split screen to Youtube videos that allow us to understand the circumstances in which Laura killed herself. Music from Spotify takes the place of a soundtrack. Connie Conway's How You Lie, Lie, Lie is one of the apt selections. Everyone has a dirty little secret and things become increasingly nasty as they are exposed - one by one. Betrayal in various forms is depicted and by the time the deadly confession game is played - as insisted by Billy 227 - non-stop hysterical screaming from multiple split screens rages.
It's what we don't see that is the most terrifying, although the imagery involving a blender, knife and gun is enough to disturb as the body count rises. Trouble is, the fact that the characters have no redeeming features makes our relationship to them rather perfunctory: we don't care what happens to any of them. Hennig delivers the best performance as Blair; her intense facial expressions haunt throughou. There is no redeeming message either - apart from staying away from social media.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

UNFRIENDED (MA15+)
(US, 2014)

(aka Cybernatural)

CAST: Cal Barnes, Matthew Bohrer, Courtney Halvrson, Shelley Hennig, Renee Olstead, Will Peltz, Heather Sossaman, Moses Jacon Storm, Jacob Wysocki

PRODUCER: Timur Bekmambetov, Nelson Greaves

DIRECTOR: Levan Gabriedze

SCRIPT: Nelson Greaves

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Adam Sidman

EDITOR: Parker Laramie

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Heidi Koleto

RUNNING TIME: 82 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 30, 2015







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