Unfriended (Blu-ray) (2015)

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Released 10-Sep-2015

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror / Thriller None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2015
Running Time 82:32
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Levan Gabriadze
Studio
Distributor

Universal Sony
Starring Heather Sossaman
Matthew Bohrer
Courtney Halverson
Shelley Hennig
Moses Storm
Will Peltz
Renee Olstead
Jacob Wysocki
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $19.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Portuguese dts 5.1
Hungarian dts 5.1
Polish dts 5.1
Russian dts 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Portuguese
Hungarian
Polish
Russian
Serbian
Arabic
Hindi
Thai
Czech
Danish
Dutch
Finnish
Icelandic
Norwegian
Romanian
Swedish
Turkish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    A unique micro-budget horror movie from executive producer Jason Blum, 2015’s Unfriended essentially plays out like a big-screen Creepypasta, and it’s an intriguing extension of the well-worn “found-footage” subgenre. Rather than “lost” film reels or digital video discovered on SD cards, almost every frame of Unfriended occurs on the screen of the main character’s MacBook Pro, across a number of apps and websites. The narrative unfolds in real time from this unique point of view, which may sound like a boring concept, but it’s more effective than it had any right to be. Unsettling and chilling, and made all the more unnerving by its uncanny sense of vérité realism, Unfriended is a stripped-down supernatural ghost story that’s imaginatively guided by director Levan Gabriadze.

    It has been one year since high school student Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman) committed suicide as a result of online bullying in the wake of an embarrassing video being posted online. Blaire Lily (Shelley Hennig) settles in to flirt with her boyfriend Mitch (Moses Jacob Storm) over Skype, but the conversation is soon interrupted by the appearance of classmates Ken (Jacob Wysocki), Jess (Renee Olstead) and Adam (Will Peltz), while Val (Courtney Halverson) is also invited to the group chat. However, a mysterious Skype user is also present, and Blaire begins to receive unnerving messages from Laura’s Facebook account. Although everybody assumes that it’s all just an elaborate prank, they come to realise that their online chat is being manipulated by an all-knowing phantom entity claiming to be Laura herself, who thrusts them into deadly games of truth-telling that threatens to tear the group apart. If anybody hangs up or tells a lie, they die.

    With a screenplay credited to first-timer Nelson Greaves, Unfriended presents a potent snapshot of contemporary life, portraying the pressures of social media and how sites like Facebook and YouTube can be used to destroy lives. Teens who hide behind the anonymity of a computer screen can be exceedingly callous, unable to consider the gravity or consequences of their online actions, and cyber bullying has led to several well-documented suicides in real life. Thus, Unfriended functions as both a cautionary document as well as intense horror movie, and its messages are undeniably timely, giving it a bit of gravitas beyond the chills. Messages sent between the characters serve to provide exposition and enhance the story, while Blaire carries out online investigation as well. Mitch provides links that underscore the importance of ignoring messages from deceased persons, but the warning comes too late.

    Every frame of Unfriended feels authentic, with the movie being performed in prolonged single takes by the ensemble, while a genuine computer screen is shown from start to finish. (Multiple different takes, and therefore different versions of the movie, were shot, and therefore a fair bit of footage from the trailers is not in the finished movie.) It may seem like a minor victory for a movie to convincingly portray a computer, but Hollywood motion pictures seldom get it right, often showing ludicrous, fantastical computer interfaces which don’t ring true. Unfriended, on the other hand, has its foot firmly planted in the real world, with poor internet speeds and typing errors, amplifying the sense of horror. There is even a hint of black humour, with Laura at one stage causing Blaire’s laptop to become overloaded with pop-ups advertising “live cams.” The actors are all newcomers, with no famous faces to distract from the story, again giving the movie more realism. But despite a cast of newcomers, performances are uniformly believable, conveying fear and hysteria with ease.

    On balance, however, Unfriended is not perfect. Particularly egregious is the character of Ken, who’s a lazy stereotype; he’s overweight, sexless, a pothead, and a total whiz with computers. Furthermore, perhaps the electronic menace could be at least slowed down by switching off the power, if not entirely thwarted? Not every piece of the puzzle works, but Unfriended benefits from a snappy pace (it runs a brisk 80 minutes), delivering ample scares along the way. It’s riveting more often than not, and it’s never boring. The movie will undoubtedly be polarising depending on your expectations and your tolerance for the found footage subgenre (it refuses to answer any questions, leaving plenty of mystery), but it nevertheless worked for this reviewer.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Unfriended looks precisely as intended on Blu-ray, with Universal Studios faithfully transferring this micro-budget horror to home video. Whether or not you appreciate the presentation comes down to your expectations, as the video comprises of a number of different sources. The entire movie is a computer screen, with poor quality videos being watched in browsers, and Skype video calls of mediocre quality. There are also glitches and artefacts, including some deliberate glitches during the opening Universal logo. But this is exactly how the film looked in the cinema back in 2015. Even though the disc contains no supplemental material, an entire dual-layered BD-50 is used, which maximises the bitrate - it usually sits above the 30 Mbps mark, which is above-average for a movie of this sort.

    Framed at 1.78:1 and encoded in MPEG-4 AVC, the broad strokes of the 1080p video presentation are exceptional. The computer screen is exceptionally crisp, with sharp, refined edges and text, while every icon is distinct. Clarity is excellent, and it’s easy to take in every last detail of the screen. The Skype video is often rough and noisy, but that’s entirely by design. Although colours are admittedly average during the Skype calls, the computer screen looks accurate in terms of colour and contrast - you could swear you're looking at your own MacBook screen. (This is probably a good movie to watch on your laptop!) As previously stated, there are artefacts all over the Skype calls, including macroblocking and blocky-looking noise, but these serve to make the movie look all the more authentic. Thankfully, the encode never falls victim to any unintentional artefacts, as the MacBook screen outside of the Skype window doesn't exhibit any banding or aliasing.

    I cannot imagine a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray offering any noticeable or worthwhile improvement over this fine 1080p presentation. Considering the source, the transfer is perfect. Unfriended is vivid and easy to watch on Blu-ray.

    Subtitles are available in a variety of languages. The English track is often too busy and is presented at the top of the frame rather than the bottom, but at least it's easy to read.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The primary audio option on the Blu-ray is a lossless English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, which again sounds faithful to the theatrical presentation I beheld in the cinema back in 2015. Like the video, the audio is not perfect, but that’s by design. The dialogue through the Skype calls is deliberately distorted at times, the online videos sound imperfect, and so on, yet Unfriended should not be any other way. Thanks to the lossless encoding, the audio is crystal clear aside from any deliberate shortcomings like the muffled Skype call dialogue.

    The audio track’s meat & potatoes are flawless. It’s a clear, layered mix, with computer loading noises, Facebook/iMessage chat notifications, crisp typing and clicking sounds, and all of the songs that are played through Spotify. There is also a certain low-end rumbling sound at key points during the movie to amplify the sense of unease, which makes great use of the subwoofer and has the potential to make the walls rumble. This is a front-heavy audio presentation for the most part, with nothing in the way of real separation or surround use outside of the songs, which traces back to the source. Unfriended both looks and sounds perfectly fine on Blu-ray, with no encoding problems to speak of.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Absolutely nothing. Which is a shame considering all of the alternate versions and deleted scenes that were filmed.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    In terms of supplements, all editions worldwide are identical. Buy local.

Summary

    Unfriended is suitably unsettling, and horror fans should find it to be worthwhile. It's certainly more interesting than any number of other recent horror flicks.

    The Blu-ray from Universal is technically proficient, with top-notch video and audio doing justice to the source, but the lack of extras is certainly disappointing. All things considered though, this one is worth picking up.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Callum Knox (I studied biology)
Monday, December 04, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDLG UP970 4K UHD HDR Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayLG OLED65E6T. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 2160p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationSamsung Series 7 HT-J7750W
SpeakersSamsung Tall Boy speakers, 7.1 set-up

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