Digital Identification Within Unfriended

A video essay on the film Unfriended (2014) that tries to mimic the style of the movie as best as possible.

(Set to 1080p HD) Youtube link if there is any trouble.

Transcription of Video Essay:

There exists a common trope within horror movies to use point of view shots in order to convey a sense of identification with either the killer or characters. With the killer taking the reins, you are given an added layer of suspense for their victim–as you the audience members see the innate danger they are in; Carol Clover in her essay “Men, Women, & Chainsaws” simplifies this theory to the formula identification = point of view; she will l later add layers onto what she means but this credence always stays true. With this understanding in place, I want to examine the 2014 film Unfriended and how it further immerses the viewer into the shoes of its protagonist Blaire Lily by giving us a framing mechanism completely attached to her. As the film is framed entirely within the full window screen of Blaire’s computer—albeit except for the last final jumpscare—the identification that is happening comes down to how we see her interact with the various programs on her device. 

The simple act of enabling the view of her mouse cursor as it browses across the screen gives us a greater level of intimacy with a character that both few horror and regular films do; we see her exact thought processes reflected in the way she moves across the scene or frantically changes messages on the fly before sending them. While watching the film, it is easy to believe that you yourself are in control of the computer for the actions Blaire takes to emulate a true experience of navigating a computer are realistic. 

There are certain fabulations that we make when watching a screen that draw us to understand where the cursor is going to go next; whether that is at closing message board or clicking on hyperlinks, because these are acts we have done thousands of times before are brain fills in the gaps on how to achieve them. The experience is also out-of-body in a way for we rarely interact with computer screens not controlled by ourselves, especially the intimate act of typing and revising is something so revealing of an isolated experience. All this to say, Unfriended use of identification creates a greater sense of connection and fear. 

The control Blaire has over at least the viewing of the murders and what we are presented with are completely thrown out with the last shots of the movie, leaving the viewer in deep peril for the lack of agency the main character now has. All control has been stripped from Blaire and she is at the complete whim of the monster, the final girl now is the one who jumps out at her. This final scene would not have been as effective had the movie varied its framing device. Allan Cameron’s piece, Facing the Glitch: Abstraction, Abjection, and the Digital Image notes that in Unfriended quote “to have a face, in this context, is to be at a disadvantage,” for the faceless killer remains the strongest entity in the film as the characters who are merely just their face are always in a victim role; this final scene shifts this perspective. It is because we stick so closely to Blaire’s mouse and cursor the whole movie that we are frightened when they are removed from us. By isolating us away from the one true point of identification with the film, we are left to ourselves in the closing shots–completely defenseless with no more screens of separation to protect us. 

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