Unfriended is a 2014 American found footage supernatural horror film directed by Levan Gabriadze, written by Nelson Greaves, executive produced by Jason Blum, co-produced by Adam Sidman, and produced by Greaves and Timur Bekmambetov. The film stars Shelley Hennig, Moses Jacob Storm, Renee Olstead, Will Peltz, Jacob Wysocki, and Courtney Halverson as high school students in a Skype conversation that is haunted by a student who was bullied and committed suicide named Laura Barns, played by Heather Sossaman.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Leo Gabriadze|
|Written by||Nelson Greaves|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$64.1 million|
The film premiered at the Fantasia Festival on July 20, 2014, and at SXSW on March 13, 2015. It received a theatrical release on April 17, 2015. The film, which is told almost entirely through a high school student's MacBook screen, stars Shelley Hennig as one of several friends who find themselves terrorized online by an anonymous person. The film received mixed reviews from critics, and grossed $64 million against a $1 million budget. A stand-alone sequel, Unfriended: Dark Web, had its premiere on March 9, 2018 at SXSW.
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The story is told through Blaire's laptop screen. A year ago, high school student Laura Barns commits suicide after an anonymous user uploads a viral video of her passing out and defecating herself at a party. On her death anniversary, her former best friend Blaire Lily enters a Skype group chat with her boyfriend Mitch Roussel, friends Jess Felton, Ken Smith, and Adam Sewell, and an unknown user named "billie227," which they dismiss as a glitch after several unsuccessful attempts to disconnect it. After Mitch and Blaire receive messages from Laura's Facebook account and discovers "billie227" is Laura's Skype account, the entire group suspects their classmate Val Rommel is pranking them.
After they invite Val to their chat, Jess's Facebook page is updated with racy photos of Val at a party. Jess denies uploading the photos and deletes them from her account, but the pictures reappear on Adam's account. "billie227" starts chatting with them and sends Val a message. Val reacts negatively, calls the police, and signs off. They each receive a link of an Instagram post showing a photo of Val and Laura's messages, with Val telling Laura to kill herself. "billie227" says they all have dark secrets, sending each of them an email that leaves them unnerved; Blaire receives photos of her and Adam's affair. Val is suddenly brought back into the chat, sitting still next to a bottle of bleach before collapsing. From the police's arrival and voice, they deduce that Val died from a presumed suicide. Ken uses a program to remove "billie227" from the chat, but after they attempt to call the police, the police on the other end implies she is "billie227" and re-enters the chat, revealing a camera view which appears to come from the other side of his room. He approaches the camera source, but his Skype is disconnected and reconnects showing him shredding his hand inside an active blender before using the blades to kill himself.
"billie227" forces the remaining four to play a game of Never Have I Ever, stating the loser will die. They are forced to reveal hurtful secrets which reveal their backstabbing against each other. Mitch and a drunken Adam argue despite Blaire's pleas for them to calm down, and Adam forces Blaire to reveal she cheated on Mitch with Adam. She lies, saying it happened once in a drunken moment, but "billie227" uploads a YouTube video of their tryst and she admits they cheated a second time to see if it was more than just a drunken encounter. Blaire and Adam receive messages sent to their printers which they refuse to show to Mitch and Jess. Mitch threatens to leave if Blaire does not show the note; "billie227" warns that Mitch will die if he leaves. In a moment of panic, Adam refuses but Blaire shows her paper: "If you reveal this note, Adam will die." Adam shoots himself, revealing the same note except it was for Blaire.
When Blaire convinces Jess not to continue playing, "billie227" cuts the lights in Jess's house and disconnects her video feed. Blaire looks for help on Chatroulette and finds a stranger send police to Jess' house. Soon after, Blaire receives a video of Jess with a curling iron forced down her throat. "billie227", now revealed to be Laura herself, messages Blaire and Mitch, wanting them to confess who uploaded the video in the first place. Blaire considers denying involvement, but eventually reveals that he was the one who posted it; Mitch grabs a knife and stabs himself in the eye. Laura starts a countdown timer and Blaire desperately tries to stop her, reminding her of their closeness as children until they drifted apart. Laura tells her they didn't "drift apart" and uploads a video which reveals Blaire recorded the defecation video. Blaire's Facebook friends turn against her. Laura says what Blaire has done will live online forever and wishes she could forgive her, before signing off Skype. Blaire's bedroom door creaks open and a pair of hands slam her laptop shut. As Blaire whispers "Laura" in fear, a spirit violently lunges at her as the screen cuts to black.
- Shelley Hennig as Blaire Lily
- Moses Jacob Storm as Mitch Roussel
- Renee Olstead as Jess Felton
- Will Peltz as Adam Sewell
- Jacob Wysocki as Ken Smith
- Courtney Halverson as Val Rommel
- Heather Sossaman as Laura Barns
- Mickey River as Dank Jimmy
- Cal Barnes as Rando Pauls
- Matthew Bohrer as Matt
- Christa Hartsock as Chatroulette Girl
Gabriadze was attracted to the project (then titled Offline) as it focused on the theme of bullying. He noted that the nature of bullying had changed since he was in school, as the Internet allowed for bullies to continue their actions even after school hours.
Production was 16 days total, including six 12-hour days of principal photography, three days of pick-ups and then a few more reshoots. When filming began, it mostly consisted of long takes around ten minutes in length. Shelley Hennig, who portrayed Blaire, found that this proved difficult for the energy and motivation needed from her and the other actors. At her request, at least one full, 80-minute-long take was filmed, with each actor in separate rooms with separate computers. The film's ending was captured during one of these feature-length takes.
The film's title changed during shooting (and would also change prior to its theatrical release), as the film's crew felt that the title of Offline was "too general and not obvious" and that the then title of Cybernatural was "more to the point of what it is". For wide release, the film was re-titled Unfriended.
Unfriended initially had its world premiere on July 20, 2014 at the Fantasia Festival and screened on the film festival circuit under the title of Cybernatural. A generally positive film festival reception and test screenings for the film prompted Universal Pictures to pick up the film rights with the intent to give it a wide theatrical release the following year. The film's title was changed from Cybernatural to Unfriended and the film was theatrically released on April 17, 2015. The film was screened at Playlist Live on February 6, 2015 and premiered at SXSW on March 13, 2015.
Unfriended was heavily marketed online, with 60% of the marketing budget being spent on digital platforms.
In July 2014, a teaser trailer was released with scenes from the film. The teaser shows the original title of the film which at the time was Cybernatural. On January 12, 2015, the film's first official trailer with the title Unfriended was released. Shortly after, on February 6, 2015, the film was screened at Playlist Live, a popular convention for internet celebrities from Vine and YouTube. Images were also released.
On February 13, 2015, a campaign was launched with Kik Messenger, in which Kik users could have a chat conversation with Laura. This made use of automated responses and pre-scripted responses, while also driving users to a dedicated microsite.
On March 13, 2015, after the film's premiere at SXSW, an after-party was hosted by Blumhouse. Exclusive Never Have I Ever cards were released at SXSW later, and a "NEVER HAVE I EVER" section was set up on the film's official website. Unfriended-themed photo booths were set up as well During production, official Facebook and Skype accounts were set up for the characters in the film, and, after the premiere at SXSW, people who attended were "friended" by the official Laura Barns Facebook account. There was also a Twitter account, which tweeted attendees of the after-party.
Home media and streamingEdit
Unfriended has grossed $32.5 million in North America and $31.6 million in other territories, for a worldwide gross of $64.1 million against a budget of $1 million.
In North America, the film opened simultaneously with Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 and Monkey Kingdom on April 17, 2015, across 2,739 theaters, earning $6.8 million on its opening day. In its opening weekend, Unfriended earned $15.8 million, which was higher than its $12 million range projection, and finished in third place at the box office behind Furious 7 ($29.2 million) and fellow newcomer Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 ($23.8 million). Its opening weekend is the biggest debut for an original horror movie since The Conjuring, which opened with $41.9 million in July 2013.
Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 63%, based on 163 reviews, with an average rating of 6/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Unfriended subverts found-footage horror cliches to deliver a surprisingly scary entry in the teen slasher genre with a technological twist." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 59 out of 100, based on 30 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Reception at the Fantasia Film Festival was mostly positive. Common praise for the film centered upon its acting and visuals, and Twitch Film commented that the film was an "interesting look at modern methods of communication and the ramifications of the new normal of always-on social interaction." Variety commented that while the film was "exasperating" at points, they also felt that it was clever and innovative.
Dread Central also praised the film overall, but stated that they felt that the movie's one major flaw was "the fashion in which we are trafficked to each scare- through multi-screen clicking, copying, pasting and re-sizing, basically all-around multi-tasking. It can be trying to sit through and I liken it to sitting over someone's shoulder watching them web-surf... endlessly." It was named Most Innovative Film at the Fantasia Film Festival and received a Special Mention for Feature Film.
British film critic Mark Kermode gave the film a positive review, calling it a film which understands Skyping culture and cyber-bullying. He said, "Many people who've seen the trailer say, 'You're being stalked through the internet. Just log off.' The point is they can't because they're addicted." While on one hand admitting it was a "shrieky, teen-terrorized, slasher movie," on the other hand he said it was a film about how cyber-bullying only works if you cooperate with it.
Irish film critic Donald Clarke, writing for The Irish Times, gave the film a very positive review, describing it as "genuinely unsettling" and praising the filmmakers' "uncanny grasp of the complicated dynamics of contemporary interaction" and how they succeeded in "[retaining] a position on the moral high ground while bloody mayhem rages around their feet".
Brad Jones and David Gobble gave the film a very negative review, referring to it as repetitive, irritating, unoriginal, and insufferable. They said that it is based entirely on an awful gimmick. Gobble called it the third worst film of 2015, after Do You Believe? and War Room. Some critics found the film to contain unintentionally amusing moments that detracted from the experience. Lou Lumenick of the New York Post and Lauren Chval of RedEye found that the film's scenes involving Blaire's pleas for help on Chatroulette, as well as some of the phrases typed by Laura's ghost (including "but in this version [of a drinking game], the loser doesn’t drink. The loser dies.") to be more humorous than frightening.
In April 2015, it was announced that Universal Pictures had greenlit a sequel, tentatively titled Unfriended 2.  In October 2017, it was announced that the film was shot secretly and the film’s working title would be Unfriended: Game Night. On March 9, 2018 the film’s official title revealed to be Unfriended: Dark Web.
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