‘Unfriended’ was not meant to be traditionally horrific

Katie Smith, Editor-in-Chief

Editor’s note: This column contains every spoiler.

Levan Gabriadze’s horror/thriller film, “Unfriended” amassed $16 million across 2,739 theaters, surpassing the creators’ $12 million range expectations.

The movie was marketed to audiences as a ghost story, focusing on a late high school student, Laura Barnes, who uses social media to haunt a group of friends.

I went to see “Unfriended” Tuesday with a group of friends, who left feeling dissatisfied because the movie “wasn’t scary enough.” 

The entirety of the film takes place on Blaire Lily’s (Shelley Hennig) computer screen, as the audiences witness her Skype, instant message and Facebook conversations.

Despite how the movie was marketed, its intention wasn’t to terrify viewers with blood and supernatural activity.

The truly horrific element about “Unfriended” is its honest representation of cyber bullying.

I just felt the collective eye roll of every person reading this, and that’s precisely why I think “Unfriended” was well executed.

Gabriadze found a new platform to discuss online harassment.

When someone posts a video of Laura Barnes drunkenly lying in her own feces after a party, she is subjected to harsh online harassment.

In a similar manner as Jay Asher’s novel “Th1rteen R3asons Why,” the film uses the characters’ social media posts to explore the events leading up to Laura’s suicide.

Not unlike real life, the characters are pitted against one another when a ghastly game of “never have I ever” forces them to reveal and take ownership of their rumors and betrayals.

At one point, Blaire Lily uses the random online chat site, ChatRoulette to encourage someone to call for help.

All but one of the strangers she meets on the site hit the next button and ignore her, mock her or masturbate to her image while she screams into the computer “I NEED HELP.”

This scene felt all too realistic and frightening, since it confronted the audience with their own irresponsible Internet behaviors.

Although Blaire was reaching out for help on a video chatting site, the scene seemed to be referencing the ways in which people are laughed at, ignored or taken advantage of for things they post online, even if their posts are blatant cries for help.

“Unfriended” remained faithful to classic horror tropes, including death by sex, soundtrack dissonance and the innocent virgin.

Rather than the virginal character (Blaire) being the lone survivor, we learn she has lied about her virginity and cheated with her boyfriend’s best friend.

It is only appropriate each of the characters died, since bullying is a group effort.

Throughout the movie, the characters are faced with “Saw-like” scenarios that force them to admit to things like sleeping with someone’s girlfriend, starting a rumor a classmate had an eating disorder, drugging and raping a girl at a party, and eventually – posting the video of Laura Barnes that generated such cruel comments she took her life.

After each question is asked in their game of “never have I ever,” Laura’s ghost counts down from 20.

If no one answers, someone dies.

As the group hears one another admit to their cruel acts, they begin to pit themselves against each other.

Contributing their own questions to the game, the friends essentially begin to kill one another by revealing each other’s secrets.

If you go into this film expecting “The Poltergeist,” you will be sadly disappointed, because the film’s intention is not to have you leaving afraid to sleep alone, rather cognizant of your online behavior.

Katie Smith is a senior journalism major.

She can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].