Thursday, May 07, 2015

Unfriended (Leo Gabriadze, 2015)


TC: OMG! Did u c Unfriended?

NV: Yes

TC: OMG! Wasnt it scary? LOL!

NV: It was all right

TC: WTF?!!! I near crpped in my pants!

NV: It was all right


NV: I didn't not like it, just liked it okay

TC: So wats wrong wid it?

NV: It's basically your standard-issue horror film, with the technology upgraded. Y'know, where the hero or heroine has his or her hand on the door and the audience screams "Don't open that door!" and they go through anyway, only translated for the cyberage: "Don't click on that link!" "Don't download that file!" The technology is state-of-the-art, the characters as dumb as ever.

TC: But dats d best part!

NV: It's clever. All those hoary old cliches, updated for social media. Someone called it a Heathers (1988) for our age; problem with that comparison is that Heathers had funny dialogue and a real 'fuck you!' attitude. That film would have been even stronger if they hadn't censored the ending, switched out the original explosive finale (the school blows up) for a cop-out uplifting one. Writer Daniel Waters' scripts (including one of my favorites) keep getting changed all the time--why is that, I wonder?

TC: U think maybe they shouldve moved d camera more? Maybe included stuff outside d computer screen?

NV: No, that's the cleverest part, that it's a horror movie about social media told entirely through the medium of social media. Pop up screens, audios, video recordings, private chat; I liked it that you can actually follow a character's thought processes (mainly the girl's, since it's her computer screen being projected on the big screen) by the way the cursor arrow moves or hovers over some link or button--sometimes switching back and forth between links because she's conflicted on which to click. Some of the best chills are when she's hovering over some blinking button, too scared to click on it, too scared not to.

TC: So u LIKD d movie!

NV: It has clever bits. Then the not-very-good special effects take over, the plot and most of its hard-earned (virtual) realism goes flying out the window (if the killer's supernaturally omniscient and omnipotent, why bother installing an extra camera in the ventilation grating behind one of the kids?), and we're back in Insidious/Paranormal Activity/Conjuring territory. Not that I like those movies any better.

Meantime what have we got? The usual revenge flick, with the usual heavy-handed moral nailed to its forehead: “Don't cyberbully because it'll come back to you.” Too bad the film doesn't really take its principle all the way, having to rely on, oh, a gun, a blender, a knife and all the tired conventional claptrap horror filmmakers have been using since time immemorial (or at least the '80s). Couldn't a victim at least be deleted pixel by pixel, screaming in virtual agony? Couldn't his brain functions be wiped one file at a time? Couldn't he die in some nasty 3D printing incident, the digital modeling turned inside-out (horrifying thought!)? Nice idea, poor resolution, could've been executed better.

TC: But it scard u?

NV: Sometimes, not always.

TC: Den its GOOD.

NV: I stopped looking for horror in horror films.

TC: Dat doesnt even make sense!

NV: I stopped looking for horror in horror films. 

Scares are no longer the standard by which I measure horror. Any movie that uses shock cuts and cranks up the volume can scare anyone--doesn't mean they're actually good. The more ambitious, more artful goal is to do something that'll haunt the viewer even when the video screen is turned off, or you step out of the theater.  

I love a gorgeously photographed film like say John Boorman's demented Exorcist 2: The Heretic (which I much prefer over William Friedkin's dully straightforward original); a perfectly poised portrait of paranoia like Roman Polanksi's Rosemary's Baby; a sophisticated horror-comedy like James Whale's Bride of Frankenstein. The filmmaker has to bring something more to the table than cheap scares or I'm not even going to bother. Watching it seriously, I mean. At most I'll sit in one corner throwing quips and popcorn at the big screen.

TC: …

NV: ?


TC: U hate movies

NV: Not true I

TC: Something's a big hit n you have to piss on it

NV: Not necessarily

TC: I dont know y u bother writing about movies if u keep beating em up so much

NV: I beat up a lot of movies because I love the good ones

TC: Then stick to writing bout d good ones, shole

NV: If you're going to be like this maybe I should

TC: I have an idea

NV: Huh?

TC: Lets play a game

NV: omg

First published in Businessworld 4.30.15

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