The afterlife is a pretty mysterious thing, even for those of us who have a good idea of where we’re going. What will our ultimate destination look like? Feel like? Will it have lots of harps? Could it spiral through nine circles? We read our Bibles and listen to the experts and maybe even watch Heaven Is for Real, but we still don’t have a concrete idea of what, exactly, our lives will be like after we die.
But one thing we can be sure of: The afterlife has killer Wi-Fi.
Laura Barns committed suicide on April 12, 2013. Some say she was bullied to death. But, as you know, it takes a lot more than death to keep teens away from their social media. So, on the anniversary of her suicide, she barges into a Skype conversation with six of her so-called bestest buds—including one-time BFF Blaire.
Oh, sure, her living comrades are a little skeptical that Laura’s actually with them at first. I mean, the girl hasn’t updated her Facebook page in ages. They figure some low-humor prankster hacked into Laura’s old accounts and is staging the shenanigan.
And then the friends start killing themselves.
Is Laura out for revenge? Or is she just aggressively trying to introduce everyone to the wonders of post-death Internet connectivity? Is MorgueSpace a thing over there? Does everyone shorten links with Obitly?
You could argue that Unfriended is a bloody morality fable underlining whatPlugged In has been telling you for years: Be careful what you do online, ’cause that stuff lives on forever. This teen-centric flick takes a strong stance against bullying, lying and thoughtless online communication, with Laura serving as the ultimate “I told you so.”
The afterlife is a fact of life in Unfriended, what with Laura hacking into all manner of online accounts to hack off and then hack up her friends. She not only haunts the Internet, but can possess her friends and make them do what she wishes. Why? Well, there’s a suggestion that Laura’s soul didn’t wind up in a particularly great place. When one of her friends (still believing that Laura’s just another online troll) says they should meet up somewhere, Laura types, “Sounds great, but you wouldn’t like it here.”
An website details alleged instances of dead people taking revenge on the living. It suggests that the only way to survive such an encounter is to confess your sins.
Blaire and Mitch are an item, and the movie opens with them engaged in an erotic Skype chat. It includes mock threats (with a knife), near nudity and suggestions of masturbation. Blaire tells Mitch he can have sex with her on prom night. We also see her with Adam, Mitch’s best friend, their erotic encounter documented with pics and videos of them in bed, cuddling and stripping off clothes.
Blaire suggests that Laura was abused by her uncle. We also hear about pornography, erections, virginity and sexual frustration. Sexual online images include women dancing suggestively and beginning to take off their tops.
Once Laura’s loosed online, she doesn’t mess around: People shoot themselves in the face and somebody stuffs his hand into a blender. (The grainy webcam footage shows the victim slowly being turned into human puree, with blood splashing everywhere.) A guy stabs himself in the eye. A curling iron jammed into a girl’s mouth kills her.
An online clip chronicles Laura’s suicide. (We see her holding a gun at arm’s length and shooting herself in the face.) This is after scores of messages, texts and even videos tell her to “kill urself.” Adam brandishes a gun, and he threatens several people. A website shows a picture of a hanging. We hear about how someone had sex with a girl and forced her to get an abortion. When Mitch jokingly threatens Blaire with a knife, she responds with, “You’re really sexy when you’re violent.”
Crude or Profane Language
More than 100 f-words. Approaching 50 s-words. We see a printed use of the c-word. Also: “a–,” “b–ch,” “h—” and “p—.” The n-word is used. Crude slang referring to various body parts includes “t-ts” and “balls.” God’s name is misused a handful of times, once with “d–n.” Jesus’ name is abused once or twice.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Adam drinks throughout the Skype chat, and he’s obviously drunk. Mitch references another time when Adam got drunk and went a little out of control. Laura posts pictures of Val drinking and using a bong.
She also forces most of her friends to reveal their secrets through a modified drinking game called “Never Did I Ever.” During the game, Mitch tells of getting Adam busted for using marijuana. The friends talk about the weed someone just obtained. It’s said that a couple of their dads are out drinking. Someone smokes a huge cigar. A video of Laura—the one that allegedly pushed her to kill herself—depicts her passed out drunk.
Other Negative Elements
That video also shows that Laura has defecated on herself, prompting a comment string filled with vile, hateful messages. Jess fesses up to starting a rumor about Blaire having an eating disorder.
Unfriended is a standard R-rated teen fright-flick with one distinguishing gimmick: It’s told via computer. So all the Blair Witch Project-style “action,” such as it is, takes place on Blaire’s laptop, the story progressing through Skype sessions, Facebook updates, text messages and playlists. Oh, and of course, computer cam-filmed suicides. It’s a variant on the “found footage” trope, and in a way it’s creepily fitting, given how much of teens’ lives are spent online. When your every waking moment is documented somewhere on the Internet, the movie’s makers seem to ask, why not your horrific demise, too?
The resulting response from the audience I watched this film with? Laughter.
And there’s really not much more to share here. There’s certainly nothing to like.