UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB (2018)
Starring Colin Woodell, Stephanie Nogueras, Andrew Lees, Connor Del Rio, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Betty Gabriel, Savira Windyani, Chelsea Alden, Douglas Tait, Alexa Mansour, Ashton Smiley, Kiara Beltran, Maya Nalli, Rob Welsh, Eric Watson and Bryan Adrian.
Screenplay by Stephen Susco.
Directed by Stephen Susco.
Distributed by BH Tilt. 88 minutes. Rated R.
Many people spend almost all their time on the computer, so why not do it at the movies, too?
Unfriended: Dark Web is a bit of a gimmick film – all the action takes place on the screen of a laptop – but the gimmick works surprisingly well. It’s a whole new frontier for found-footage horror. (Well, not completely new, the first Unfriended movie used a similar technique, as did a film called Broken Windows, and several others have dabbled in the style.)
Unfriended: Dark Web works well as an approximation of a computer session gone horribly awry, which is probably just as well because I’m guessing most people will see it on their computer or other devices, rather than in a theater. (I’m not saying that as a dig, it’s simply a fact of the audience that Dark Web is targeting.)
And even if the storyline doesn’t quite hold up to close scrutiny, the film does have some significant scares and casts a tense web of paranoia.
All the action in the story is shared on programs like Skype, Facebook, Snapchat, Google, Wikipedia and more.
I have to admit, I’m not exactly up on the dark web, but the least impressive computer effects take place in a dark web area known as “The River,” which looks like an old-school MS-DOS BBS message board and with cheesy 8-bit graphics that seem to be left over from the era of TRON, Prince of Persia and Doom.
The story has some dude named Matias taking home a Mac laptop that has been sitting in the lost and found for the last few weeks, thinking that he has gotten himself a nice new free computer. As he starts to download his stuff on the laptop, he finds that the hard drive is almost full, and the computer is acting a little odd.
He tries to set up a program translating what he says into sign language to chat with his beautiful deaf/mute girlfriend Amaya. (It never quite explains why he really needs this program, since it would be much simpler for both if they just use regular text chat back and forth.) They are going through a breakup and things are pretty tense with them.
He also hooks up with a bunch of his friends on Skype – a computer nerd who lives in his mom’s basement, a lesbian couple, an Asian gamer girl and a British hacker.
While chatting with all of them he starts multi-tasking, opening and closing windows and checking out what is on the computer, including the former owner’s social media. Suddenly he starts getting a bunch of Facebook DMs from different women asking when he was sending the plane tickets for them to visit. Another guy asks him if he will do a custom video which would be for something called trephination. (A quick Google search finds that is drilling a hole into a person’s skull.)
Then he starts getting some threatening-sounding messages from the person who claims the computer is his and Matias and everyone he loves will pay for him stealing his laptop.
Matias tells his friends what is happening early on, and the British hacker friend helps him find the hidden folder, which turns out to be chock full of video files of snuff films, what appear to be real life murders.
Suddenly he has a bunch of hackers, trolls and killers on his trail. Strangely, they seem to be able to find his girlfriend, all his friends (even one in London), but seem to have no idea where he is. It’s kind of interesting that the dude is desperate to save his girlfriend, but he doesn’t seem to be all that concerned when the bad guys start taking out his friends one by one.
The moral of the story is not to steal laptops from lost and founds, I guess.
Like I said earlier, a lot of Unfriended: Dark Web is cheesy, and a lot of the story does not pass the smell test. And yet, was it scary? Yeah, it kinda was. Even when I knew it was kind of ridiculous, it did pull me into its world.
Unfriended: Dark Web is one of those movies that you have to turn off your critical sense and just go with it. It’s not trying to be anything substantial, it’s just a new-fangled variation on an old-fashioned fright film. And it works better than it has any right to.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2018 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: July 20, 2018.