Director: Levan Gabriadze
Stars: Shelley Hennig, Moses Jacob Storm
3 (out of 5) Globes
“Unfriended” is so-so as a ghost movie, pretty good as desktop cinema but fearless as a critique of digital technology and its effects, especially on a generation who’ve never lived without it. It hates millenials so much it could have been made by Ben Stiller’s documentarian in “While We’re Young.” Its characters are high schoolers who hang out but only while staring at screens in isolation. The entire film takes place on the desktop belonging to Blaire (Shelley Hennig), introduced as she and her boo (Moses Jacob Storm) go through a PG-13 version of the cyber-fooling around you see in Joe Swanberg movies. They’re interrupted by four of their friends, and they all proceed to have a great time, especially considering it’s the anniversary of the day their friend Laura killed herself because of cyber-bullying. (They also rarely make typos, though you've got to love that Blaire prefers VLC to Quicktime.)
As it happens, they’re all terrible people who each have at least a few, or several, skeletons in the closet. Also as it happens, their group chat has a mystery stranger: someone named “billie227” whose screen is blank and who communicates through typed messages. He or she also claims to be Laura from beyond. In addition to knowing, and looking to broadcast, all their secrets, this stranger can also fiddle with their Facebook, Spotify and YouTube services, blasting music (while showing the name of the artist and song title so viewers watching can stream them later) or even disabling certain parts of their programs. At points they suddenly can’t hit the “unfriend” button on FB or “reply all” on an e-mail and other mundane activities we take for granted.
It can also kill them, but the real violation is the control over their gizmos. The sudden unavailability of certain functions may be silly as scares, but they hit at the anxiety of not being able to control the machine that dominates modern life. Speaking of which, it even plays with the interminable spinning rainbow wheel that plagues Apple consumers, because this is a film as much about spooks as it is about jokes. It has a sense of humor and director Levan Gabriadze wants to milk as much as he can from online life for scares and jokes.