For a solid half-hour, the real-time horror film “Unfriended” feels breathlessly new as a storytelling portal, fixed as it is on the active computer screen of teenager Blaire (Shelley Hennig) as she webchats and flirts with boyfriend Mitch (Moses Storm), checks Facebook, IMs and scores her bedroom life from her playlist.
It’s also the one-year anniversary of Blaire’s friend Laura’s suicide in the wake of an embarrassing video posted online. Blaire’s five-way Skype session with friends is interrupted by an unseen caller who claims to be seeking vengeance for Laura, at which point “Unfriended” becomes a cyberstalking revenge flick. Everyone’s devices seem controlled by a secret-spilling, nasty, then violent ghost in the machine.
Until the screaming hysterics and the killing of characters turn the movie monotonous, director Leo Gabriadze and writer Nelson Greaves find narrative and emotional invention in their first-person, single-screenshot, monitor-lighted gimmick: the chill from a sudden pop-up window, the portent in a cursor hovering over a link (to click or not to click?), and the meaning that a typed, erased, then retyped message conveys.
As a harangue about cyberbullying, it’s purely exploitative, but when “Unfriended” zeros in on the whiplash mixture of freedom and torment we get from multitasking our online lives? It’s srsly fun, imo.
Running time: 1 hour, 22 minutes.
Rating: Rated R for violent content, language, sexuality and drug and alcohol use — all involving teens.
Playing: wide release.