Unfriended is a film about how bullying, terrorizing, and murder are carried out in the 21st century. Gone are the days of good old fashioned stalking by following someone from a distance in your car or sending them letters written in lipstick through the postal service. Now, if you want to ruin or scare the hell out of someone, all you need to do is hack into their computer, post indecent photos and videos of them online, and send them creepy texts... all from the comfort of your own home -- or in this case, from the grave.
The entire film takes place on a computer screen where the audience is viewing a group chat between six friends over Skype. The chat intensifies when an anonymous and uninvited guest joins the group. We eventually discover that the mystery guest is the 'ghost' of a classmate, Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman), who died by suicide exactly one year prior.
The story behind her death is that Laura took her own life in reaction to a humiliating video that was taken of her without her consent or knowledge. Once posted online, the video went viral and made her the laughing stock of her peer group. This was something Laura clearly felt she could never live down and would be branded with for the rest of her life. Now one year later, redemption is served on a silver platter beyond the grave... unless it's someone pretending to be Laura, using her Facebook account and email address. Either way, throughout the movie, "Laura" terrorizes these six individuals, revealing secrets about them and the awful things they have done to each other behind each other's backs.
I'll be honest, I'm generally not a fan of horror movies, and when I realized that the entire film had one viewpoint, I thought I was going to lose my mind. I am pleased to report that I couldn't have been more wrong. From beginning to end, we watched these characters transform from an innocent group of teenage buddies to a bunch of scared and helpless kids; kids with a closet full of secrets and lies that made them not so innocent after all.
I loved watching these characters grow, and even moreso, I loved being able to gain some perspective on what it's like to grow up in today's world. While there were a lot of obviously fictional elements of the film like the gory scenes, so much of it was very real to the times. As someone who is generally removed from teenage life, it helped me make sense of why suicide has become more prevalent amongst teenagers today, and understand how easy it is for kids to become desensitized to the chaos occurring around them. Nothing seems real when you're behind a computer, and people are free to behave as they choose -- it's truly a free pass for bullying without consequences, without feeling or empathy for the one being victimized. People are no longer seen as people, but rather an icon on a screen.
Unfriended brings that icon to life and helps us as viewers develop that empathy that is clearly the missing link to this epidemic that is running rampant in our society today. No matter how many awful things we discovered about Blaire, Adam, Jess, Mitch, Ken, and Val, I still feared for them -- I still wanted them to be okay. And of course, dear Laura; according to these six, Laura was not the best person when she was alive, but does that mean she "got what she deserved"? Absolutely not, because at the end of the day, as learned in this film, everyone has a few skeletons in their closet; everyone makes mistakes and everyone has the right to learn and grow from those mistakes, no matter how damning they may be.