If it were not for its "R" rating, teens and even younger social media users might flock to see "Unfriended" out of simple curiosity that the title invites. The movie's entire 82 minutes focuses on six high school students who are engaged in a group Skype, chatting away about nothing of significance until their little party is interrupted by an unknown person.
At first, they think it's a glitch in the system, or a hacker intent on creating a bit of mayhem. What they soon find out is the faceless entity goes by the name "Billie227", who types questions and conducts on-line "games" designed to identify who posted an embarrassing video of a former schoolmate named Laura Barns. This ordinarily wouldn't be a big deal, except that she committed suicide a year earlier because of severe bullying, including the incriminating video.
As the story progresses, the teens' deepest, darkest secrets are revealed, causing extreme angst, threats, animosity and torrents of curse words. They are warned not to hang up because to do so will result in their death. Call it "Speed" for the technological age.
The premise and look of the film are admittedly innovative --- the entire movie is made up of the group's faces peering into their computer screens, cleverly captured by GoPro cameras attached to their machines. And though the acting by this young cast is adequate --- virtually all of them have landed TV and small film roles in the past --- this is not a scary movie. Aside from a few overly loud blasts of music, and a couple of grisly moments like a hand caught in a blender, "Unfriended" quickly descends into tedium.
There are references to formerly unknown, but now commonplace, tech terms like "empty your recycle bin". Google is prominent as the teens search desperately on line how to rid themselves of this evil. And extended periods of zero dialogue are replaced by the sights and sounds of texting inside a chat room. Thoughts are expressed, or sometimes deleted and changed, before the mouse arrow hits the "send" button --- all routine computer behavior with which most people can identify. Interesting to a point, yes. But not sufficient material for a quality horror film.
If this movie acts as a deterrent, however blatant and fantastical as it is, to potential bullies out there, then it has some redeeming social value.
Executive producer Jason Blum, whose Blumhouse Productions was behind Hollywood's most profitable film ever, "Paranormal Activity" --- a truly terrifying movie --- unfortunately does not duplicate his Midas touch with "Unfriended".
Opinion: Mild Wait for DVD