**/**** Image A Sound A
starring Shelley Hennig, Moses Storm, Renee Olstead, Jacob Wysocki
written by Nelson Greaves
directed by Leo Gabriadze
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by Bill Chambers SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT. Unfriended's formal constrictions--the action unfolds entirely as a screenshot--aren't unique (the Canadian short film Noah got there first, and then there was that one segment of V/H/S), but they still make for a novel storytelling engine, especially in the uncharted realm of feature filmmaking, where Unfriended's closest precursor may be 2000's hugely-dated Thomas in Love. (Dated less by its technological crudity than by its unprophetic view of cyber-living as deviant behaviour.) It's fascinating to see the effect that being tethered to a computer monitor has on cinematic syntax. The task of laying out the horror-bogey's tragic backstory is here accomplished with a couple of YouTube clips, for instance, and this kind of graceless infodump in lieu of structured flashbacks or verbal exposition feels perfectly valid. Moreover, the moment the protagonist, Blaire (former Miss Teen USA Shelley Hennig), is revealed via webcam feed as the computer's owner, these videos--conveying the suicide of a high-school student named Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman)--become retroactively poignant: the idle guilt-surfing of a teenage girl. Everything is diegtic in Unfriended; even the on-the-nose soundtrack cues come straight from Blaire's playlist. For a century people have argued the superiority of books over movies because the latter "can't tell you what a character is thinking," but Unfriended and its ilk have stumbled on something: To espy a person's mouse-clicks is to be privy to their mood, their impulses, their leaps of logic. It's like reading their mind. While I wouldn't want to watch too many movies in this narcissistic key, the innovation is undeniable.