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  • Writer's pictureRua Fay

How A Terrible Movie Revolutionized A Genre

Leo Gabriadze's Unfriended is not a film that is looked back on fondly. To some it is the worst movie they have ever seen, a blight on the world of film, an embarrassment to horror fans everywhere. With a ridiculous plot, unlikeable characters, and some of the worst dialogue the horror genre has to offer, it's hard to find a redeeming trait about Unfriended, which is what makes its influence on the film world so bizarre and unexpected.

As far as the plot goes, Gabriadze's Unfriended is pretty run of the mill. It tells the story of a vengeful spirit that comes back to haunt the people that wronged her. In fact the commentary it attempts to make on mental health and suicide are very shallow and surface-level. Nothing about the story is very deep or original, however what is insanely original about the movie is that it takes place all within the confines of a computer screen. Although this method of filmmaking has been utilized many times since, when Unfriended was released in 2014, this was an entirely new concept. In a way this film was the current generation's Blair Witch Project. Just as Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez popularized the found footage genre, so did Leo Gabriadze with the "screen supernatural." Everyone has heard of the average ghost story, but a ghost haunting people via the technology we use on a daily basis, that's something new.

After Unfriended was released in mid 2014, the world was introduced to various other projects that used the same computer screen method such as the Modern Family episode, Connection Lost in 2015, Aneesh Chaganty's Searching in 2018, and most recently Rob Savage's Host in 2020. It's important to note that all three of these iterations have received much more positive reviews than Unfriended. In addition to making a big impact on the film world, Unfriended also proved to be an enormous success for the studios that produced it including Universal and Blumhouse Productions. An unknown foreign director and an unknown cast making nearly $63 million dollars at the box office is truly unbelievable, and honestly a triumph for the world of cinema, especially with a measly budget of $1 million dollars. I cannot believe I just said that about Unfriended of all films...

What's so interesting about the "screen" style of filmmaking is that is practically forces you into a first person perspective as the main character. Despite the fact that the characters from Unfriended are so genuinely unlikeable, you can't help but fear for their safety because when they're in danger, it feels like you are as well. It's hard to think of a film that takes place entirely in first person simply because it's an inefficient style of filmmaking and doesn't always make for the best storytelling, however it seems like Leo Gabriadze and company found a way to make it work. Another strength of Unfriended lies in the familiarity of the internet. Its clear that the target audience for this film was teenagers and young adults. the demographic that grew up during the rise of the internet, the kind of people who have no trouble picturing themselves on a Skype call. While it may seem opportunistic to the artist, the businessman will see the format of Unfriended is a stroke of genius.

Something that isn't thought about very often is that a piece of art does not necessarily have to be "good" to be influencial. In fact, I would argue that being influencial is more important. Quality is subjective but being influencial is how you keep the art form moving forward. And although I would much rather watch a movie that is technically more proficient, it's still a good thing that Unfriended exists, no matter how bad it might be.

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