Given that Halloween is just around the corner, horror films and series are enjoying a successful run on Netflix right now. As well as The Haunting of Bly Manor and, um, Hubie Halloween, the service has been dusting off some recent classics, including a couple that perhaps didn’t get as much attention as they deserved on their initial release. 2014’s Internet-based flick Unfriended, which was just added to the streaming site this past week, is certainly one to catch up on, and has already broken into the Top 10 most-watched movies list on the platform.
Directed by Levan Gabriadze, Unfriended is unique in taking place almost completely through computer screens and follows a group of high schoolers who gradually realize that a supernatural presence is haunting them via their chats and social media pages, with ties to a suicide becoming clearer as the story progresses. I recently watched Unfriended for the first time and it holds up well for a topical production with six years of technological change ahead of it.
What makes Unfriended work is not so much the central gimmick, although it is used in various inventive ways, but the unease that spreads through the young cast. The familiarity of the programs, and it’s here that using actual brands pays off, recalls any time when an online encounter may have gone wrong, or become suddenly unnerving. Moreover, Unfriended somehow escapes being completely dated, which is the risk of any piece of media that heavily features the new tech of the era.
The success of Unfriended led to a slightly-less-impressive sequel, Unfriended: Dark Web, in 2018, and a whole bunch of similar tales that use screens as their central device. And while it’s easy for the format to run out of steam, anyone who saw this year’s Host will know that it can be very effective.
If you’re not in the mood for Unfriended, though, Netflix has a lot of horror material ready to stream, meaning that you won’t have to look far to find something to pass the time in the run-up to what’s going to be a very different Halloween than usual.