‘Unfriended’ spins a new twist on the found-footage horror genre.  With recent entries indicating a slow demise with most possibilities used, ‘Unfriended’ finds a fresh slant.  Using effects of bullying as its central motif, the story conjures genuine tension.  Unlike recent horror films, ‘Unfriended’ crafts an unsettling mood beyond the shadows of cyberspace.


A year after fellow classmate Laura committed suicide, six friends gather for an on-line Skype chat.  Among them are Lily (Shelly Hennig) and Jess (Renee Olstead).  Feeling guilty over their harsh treatment which led to Laura’s death, they attempt to bury the past.  When someone logs onto Laura’s old Skype account threatening bloody vengeance, fear grips them.  Soon the spectre of death lashes the group in a vice of sheer terror.


‘Unfriended’ is a serviceable shocker without being overly scary.  In an effort to create its own vibe, overblown musical cues and cheap ‘shock-jumps’ are discarded.  By focussing on mood and characters to generate thrills, most of the time ‘Unfriended’ succeeds even if the smart concept often works against it.  The static Skype boxes in which the characters interact leaves little room for movement making events a little dull.  This occasionally makes ‘Unfriended’ drag where it should be a constant thrill-ride.  


The idea of someone using the internet as a tool for revenge is mostly well handled.  The use of urban legends and distrust amongst the unwitting participants also provides a decent level of engagement.  The cast competently conform to their teenage stereotypes with some skill without being memorable.  They could have been helped by better pacing and direction although they manage to further enhance the mood of dread permeating their lives.


Agreeably free of CGI and clunky plotting, ‘Unfriended’ is a decent chiller.  It isn’t the greatest but it may remind viewers to be more careful in their future on-line sojourns.


Rating out of 10:  6


Ex Machina

Movies concentrating on artificial intelligence are nothing new.  Tackling the thorny moral issues of creating a new type of being provides fascinating viewing.  ‘Ex Machina’ continues this path with an absorbing experience.  Under Alex Garland’s strong direction, the dilemmas posed take on dark undercurrents.  Whilst primarily a sci-fi tale, the story effectively mixes genres to create an intriguing package of ideas.


Caleb (Domnhall Gleeson) works as an expert coder at a large internet company and is surprised when winning an office competition.  The prize is a week with the company’s reclusive CEO Nathan (Oscar Isaac).  Meeting the esteemed genius is a moment Caleb won’t forget, nor is Nathan’s offer.  Wanting Caleb to test out his new artificially intelligent android named Ava (Alicia Vikander), Nathan places his employee in a unique situation.  Events soon travel an unexpected trajectory as human and machine soon become one.


‘Ex Machina’ is an engrossing study in manipulation.  Caught between a creator and his creation, Caleb slowly becomes ensnared in a sinister web.  Unsure of where his loyalties lie, Nathan’s strong willed personality versus Ava’s innocence unexpectedly captures Caleb’s imagination.  Mixed with topical themes of ‘playing God’ with science, ‘Ex Machina’s screenplay equally should capture viewer’s attention.  Events craft a myriad of twists with pieces of a puzzle slowly falling into place.


Whilst a little too slow-paced to be entirely successful, the concepts ‘Ex Machina’ presents are interesting.  How technology rules people’s lives is seen in Nathan’s use of on-line information to control Caleb’s emotions.  You are never sure of Nathan or Ava’s intentions which add to the increasing tension.  Directing from his own script, Garland ensures his complex ideas remain accessible in order to concentrate on the genuine conflict between characters.


A thoughtful sci-fi movie ‘Ex Machina’ crafts an absorbing narrative.  It doesn’t particularly add anything new about artificial intelligence but provides engaging viewing about the pitfalls of some emerging technologies.


Rating out of 10:  7