Unfriended (2015)

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Cyberbully: The Haunting

Are you afraid of the dark? Great, now…are you afraid of skype? Well you should be! In all honesty, I think it’s a great idea to take the technical side of horror and expand on that. Expand on making things as real as possible – but real doesn’t necessarily mean scary either. You need a little bit of both – let your mind do the thinking once and a while. Instead, you get something a little tame, no matter how interesting it might initially be. I’m talking about Unfriended, the horror film that came out late last year? It has such a great concept, but the deeper you get into it, the more you realize just how lame it truly is.

Unfriended takes place entirely on a high school girl’s computer screen. If you are familiar with screen capturing software, that’s exactly how this movie works. She does everything you can possibly think a teenager would do on her mac computer – click, surf the web, chat with her boyfriend, listen to music. You know? Girl stuff. She also likes to group chat with all of her friends on Skype – which is when everything bad happens. A mysterious entity of sorts begins harassing the friends on Skype, iMessage, Facebook – anything really…and it appears to be an old friend of theirs. The only problem…is that friend committed suicide before the film began. Dun dun dunnnnn!

So there are things I liked about this movie a lot, and about the same vice versa. It actually fell into the same problem many other films face, and it’s really not their fault – it’s heavy on the technical aspects, but weak in the story. The technical side of things was really spot on, a lot more than other films like it. The sounds, the progression of actions, how everything looked. I mean…there was a heck of a lot of advertisements going on in this film, but if you a tech savvy person, it’s a serious relief to see people use Google instead of FinderSpider or Facebook instead of FriendBook. I get that it’s just commercials for the actual companies, but I’d rather see them than the fake stuff any day of the week.

If you pay attention, there’s also character development for the main character specifically. It’s not the kind you’re typically accustomed to, either. It’s simply how she acts and thinks while she’s going through her computer. How she decides to talk, how she corrects what she just wrote into something more logical. How when she’s hyperventilating, she’s making typos. It’s all very technical and in my opinion, one of the smartest portrayals I’ve ever seen from a Cyber-found footage film – which is a sub-sub genre that’s starting to make a name for itself.

On the other hand, Unfriended severely lacks in storytelling. If you want to make a supernatural film about a haunting, you have to do something other than internet stalking. There’s no way the ghost of a girl can hack into accounts, and remove system coding…which is something she’d have to do to gray out options on Facebook, or remove an X button on a browser. It just doesn’t make sense, and because of that, the audience simply doesn’t buy it. They might buy that the movie was filmed in a little over an hour on a teenage girl’s computer monitor, but the rest they’ll know is a sham. What ghost would focus so much on a Skype message…and would they be so vengeful that they’d use cyberbullying as an actual tactic. Is that somehow better than just outright haunting their homes? It just doesn’t make any logical sense.

I’ll admit I wanted to know how it’d end, even though you can probably guess the actual ending – the way it gets there can always be a mystery…and for a good chunk of the movie, it did just the right thing in order to keep the audience wondering what will happen next. Before I saw the film, I knew that it could potentially be the next Paranormal Activity, but it could also be something absolutely horrible at the same time. I like to see the bright side of things and say the technical side of things was actually done well, but who am I kidding? The story was awful.

The Good:

Technical things. It’s not a complete mystery why Rotten Tomatoes has this horror flick rated as a 61%, critics love technical elements in film – which this film had an abundance of. The one thing you can’t take away from this film is how hard it tried to make this computer screen absolutely believable, and it achieved that.

The Bad:

Characters, story, concept, logic. It’s really quite dumb, no matter how you look at it.

Into the Woods (2014)

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
OMG, just stop!

I like to see myself as a musical-appreciator. I do. I’ve seen a good fair share of musicals that I have enjoyed…more so than not. However, there is a guy in the musical industry that I just can’t stand, and his name is Stephen Sondheim. For instance, I hate Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street mostly for the songs that aren’t catchy, but instead repetitive and annoying. Into the Woods, on the other hand, takes all that and kind of brings it one step further by having a workable storyline and then completely destroying it halfway in. It’s hard to explain, so let’s first start with plot.

Alright, so this is the land of fairytales intertwined…sort of like in Shrek or more so like TV’s Once Upon a Time – and of course, it is filled with music. Now, the story is more or less focused on a baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) as they are dealing with infertility. That is, until a witch comes around, promising them a child if they obtain four objects for her…which they need to get in the woods.

The woods in question is basically an international highway where all the fairytales cross paths. Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk, etc. That part is really cool, and probably the best part of the film – how they were able to mix, mash, and weave all of these stories together was all sort of impressive. That being said, it’s also a flaw. As far as movies go, this was really jumbled storytelling from the get go. There were far too many characters to keep track of, and in my opinion, that distracted from the Baker’s story. He was clearly the main character because he was ultimately the glue that held the rest of the story and characters together…but because of a huge, never-ending cast…he was drowned out a bit. However, out of every flaw this film held, this was the most trivial.

Next comes the music. It’s a musical and music is unavoidable, that I get. However, it’s Sondheim. That means 90% of the film is filled with music, and not even great music at that. If none of the songs are sticking in my head; if I’m not singing or humming them later on throughout the day or week, I don’t think it did its job. In fact, the only feeling I got while listening to these songs was OH MY GOD, JUST STOP! – and I actually enjoy musicals! I can’t even begin to explain how annoyed I was with the music in this film…so you can understand my absolute rage when it overstays its welcome.

This is without the doubt the biggest flaw Into the Woods has: everything the plot sets up in the beginning – through all the characters, elements, and goals – ends exactly at 1 hour 15 minutes. After that, we’re given another hour or so of bad ideas and horrible writing. The events that follow in this film do not add to the plot, but instead subtract! It destroys everything the film had already set up for itself – making us question why we watched it in the first place. Include really annoying music that never ends and you have a film that’s just plain bad. Maybe it works in the Broadway play in which it’s based, but not here. Not here at all.

That’s not to say that people here didn’t do a good job. They did. There were talented singers and actors alike, and beyond that – there are some really nice set designs and overall visual imagery. Plus, somewhere deep down lies a very interesting and smart idea as far as combining beloved fairytale characters together goes. At the same time, I’d much rather just watch an episode of Once Upon a Time, because that’s a TV show – and doesn’t restrict itself to a certain time limit…plus there’s no singing.  This was like taking 10 seasons of that TV show and mashing it up all together – and THEN adding a bunch of music that sounds like it was put together on one drunken and lonely night.

The Good:

The concept.

The Bad:

Everything else. The music was torture, the pacing is jacked, and the writing makes no sense because it singlehandedly destroys what was actually good about the movie (see above). In short, this movie makes me mad.

The Random:

Johnny Depp, no one is going to believe you’re a wolf.