Unfriended ***1/2

by Matthew Kaiser

Found-footage thriller is the best of its kind in a long time

Is it worth $10? Yes

Tired of found-footage films yet? Don’t be too hasty. The latest entry, "Unfriended," may seem like the same old shtick, but this old-dog genre has some new tricks. It's an extremely well-paced horror thrill ride that keeps things rolling through cyberspace 'til the end.

Blaire (Shelly Hennig of MTV’s "Teen Wolf") and her five friends get together on Skype to chat when an uninvited, anonymous seventh person joins their discussion, posing as their deceased classmate Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman). What makes it even more creepy is the fact that it is the one year anniversary of Laura’s suicide, which came shortly after an embarrassing YouTube video of her was posted. The terror ensues as Laura starts to expose their secrets and plays a deadly game, attacking those that try to log out or pull some other antics or lies, while in their own homes.

Director Levan Gabriadze (“Nightwatch,” “Wanted”) takes a very innovative twist on the stale found-footage genre and sets the film entirely from the perspective of Blaire’s computer. You get to watch as the average teenager uses her uber multi-tasking ability to switch between multiple social media sites, instant messenger, the Internet, and music and video watching with ease. We spend so much of our lives in cyberspace that it seems a natural fit to have a film set in such a comfortable environment. The writers capture the voice of today’s teens and the casual Internet interaction that has become the norm. The scares are good and you become invested in the fate of each teen.

At a brisk 82 minute run time, there are a few moments where the story really slows down and you get annoyed at the dumbassery of the characters' dialogue. The budget was very trim, and it shows during the brief and intense death scenes. It definitely helps if you are at least a bit computer savvy, so you can understand the environment of the film and be comfortable essentially staring at a teenager's computer screen for over an hour.

A good indicator of a successful movie is that it sticks with you for some time after it ends. The film did stick, but not in the way you'd expect. It didn’t stick because it was particularly unnerving, gross, or scary; rather, it sticks because of all of the alternate directions in which the story could have gone. Your mind wanders through many different scenarios and it effectively makes you wonder, "what if?".

The ending, however, wasn’t particularly satisfying, but immediately you think of a half dozen ways to fix it. It also speaks to the unfortunately popular cyber-bullying that teens have endured in this electronic age. It's a woeful trend that will hopefully stop before more kids take their lives after being publicly shamed by ignorant, self-absorbed little shits. Bottom-line is that movies like this one make you think and create more of an impact.

This is one of the best found-footage films to come out of Hollywood in a long time. With an imaginative twist, “Unfriended” takes popular topics of cyber-bullying, living on the internet, and the social media explosion and puts a fun supernatural spin on it. Just remember, "If you don’t like the review, don’t unfriend me -- bad things happen when you unfriend people."

Buy your tickets now on Fandango. In theaters April 17.

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