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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Unfriended is a horror movie that appears to take place almost entirely via computer screen, using Skype webcam chats, Facebook messages, text messages, YouTube videos, Spotify music, etc. (the products'/services' real brand names are constantly shown and used). All of the main characters are teens; some of them drink or smoke pot on camera, and there are references to past substance use. Language is extremely strong, with many uses of "f--k" and much more. There's also plenty of sexual innuendo, references to sex acts, and flirting -- as well as a near-striptease (shown via webcam), though there's no actual nudity. Teens die in gory ways, with blood splatters and other shocking images (hand in a blender, impalement, hot curling iron shoved in someone's mouth, etc.), and teen suicide is shown (via a gunshot to the head) and discussed. Amid all of the scares and edgy content, the movie does raise relevant issues related to cyberbullying.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Fresno high schooler Blaire (Shelley Hennig) settles in for an evening on her computer, texting her boyfriend, Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm), with whom she's planning a magical prom night, and Skyping with her best friends. But then a mysterious intruder appears in their group chat, and nothing the friends do can get rid of him/her. Meanwhile, Blaire is receiving strange Facebook messages from one Laura Barns, who committed suicide a year ago that day. The "ghost" makes her intentions known by causing the death of another teen girl, whose final moments the friends witness via their webcams. The intruder promises that the same will happen to the others, unless they play a game. Will the truth come out before it's too late?
Is it any good?
At its core, UNFRIENDED is just another variation on the old Friday the 13th theme, with misbehaving teens paying the ultimate price at the hands of a supernatural killer. But the catch here is that virtually the entire movie takes place on a single computer screen, via shifting windows, YouTube videos, Spotify music, Facebook photos, text messages, web browsers, and characters appearing and disappearing through Skype chats. (Open Windows tried something similar but was far less successful.)
Filmmakers often describe how low budgets and limited resources spur creativity, and that's certainly the case here; without a visible cut, director Levan Gabriadze builds rhythms with the sounds of frantic clicking and the desperate clacking of keyboards. The screen is always in motion, with downward-ticking timers adding to the suspense. Strangely enough, it works, and it can be quite gripping and chilling. Unfriended doesn't feel like a groundbreaker, but it's a successful one-off experiment.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Unfriended's violence. How gory is it? How much was shown? Did it make you jump and/or shriek? How did it achieve that effect? How does it compare to other horror movies you've seen?
How does the movie address bullying and cyberbullying? Do any of the messages get lost amid the extreme content? When should parents intervene in a cyberbullying situation?
How accurately does the movie reflect teens' real-life media habits? Does it suggest any changes?
How does the movie depict drinking and drug use? Does the movie make drinking/drugs look cool? Are there any realistic consequences?
What role does sex play in the movie? Why do you think horror movies so often mix sex and violence?
- In theaters: April 17, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: August 11, 2015
- Cast: Shelley Hennig, Moses Jacob Storm, Jacob Wysocki
- Director: Levan Gabriadze
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Horror
- Run time: 82 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violent content, pervasive language, some sexuality, and drug and alcohol use - all involving teens