A Brief History
On July 20, 2018, horror movie fans are treated to an opening of a major motion picture in the murder/suspense/slasher genre with the modern aspect of computer culture as the background. The new film, Unfriended: Dark Web, is a sequel of sorts to the 2014 film, Unfriended, although the new movie is a stand alone film that does not rely on any part of the previous movie. Well directed by Stephen Susco, who previously directed The Grudge, The Grudge 2, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D (all good horror movies), Dark Web delves into the Dark Web, just as you would think based on the title.
The plot centers on a group of friends that associate on the internet via social media, when one of their members is digitally accosted by the owner of the laptop computer “Matias” is using. Matias has claimed to have bought the computer used, but the previous owner demands the return of the laptop, claiming it has been stolen. Without ruining the suspense for you, suffice to say the foray into the Dark Web with links in the laptop’s hard drive concerns and then terrifies Matias and his friends. For audience members unfamiliar with the Dark Web, a brief explanation is offered, naming some of the nefarious activities one may find (supposedly) in this deep, dark recess of the internet, the playground of criminals such as drug dealers and assassins, terrorists, anarchists, perverts and possibly even “snuff” films. The technique of “found footage” is used in this film, in this case, video found on the computers of the main characters.
In terms of possible cinematic inspiration for this film, we wonder if the filmmakers of Unfriended: Dark Web were at all influenced by fellow found footage film Megan Is Missing (2011)? In one of most memorable scenes in Unfriended: Dark Web, a scene also shown in the film’s trailer, the main characters watch some of the “snuff” film files discovered on the stolen laptop that include a chained woman reaching for a can of something and another woman trapped in a barrel.
These images remind us quite a bit of the final sequence in Megan Is Missing, which shows a girl named Amy in her underwear chained to a wall and being made to eat food in a dog bowl before being shown a barrel and told to get into it. Amy screams as she sees the titular Megan’s rotting corpse inside the barrel before Amy is forced into the barrel along with Megan’s body.
While we do not know if the filmmakers of the more recent movie drew upon this slightly older film for inspiration, we do know that the cast of Unfriended: Dark Web is believable as normal people. The usual Hollywood casting of only “model quality” actors and actresses is replaced by relatively normal looking people, making the movie that much more believable. Although the initial build up during the 88 minute running time felt a bit slow, the development of the characters is necessary to have the audience bond with and relate to the cast. Once the action and terror start, the tension is pretty extreme. Life or horrible death hang in the balance of every decision made. The movie goer is left thinking, “What would I do?” Finally, for those movie fans that demand diversity, the cast of characters includes a lesbian couple and a hearing impaired girl. All of these qualities make for a compelling film with broad appeal.
Nevertheless, in spite of the tension we thought while previewing the movie, some people in the advance screening audience we were in often laughed out loud at times that we thought were inappropriate. Serious horror movie fans would be into the story and not be laughing, but some folks out for a free movie are not necessarily into the horror aspect. One way or another, the audience obviously liked the film and were entertained by it.
One thing we could not comment on is the rumor that the movie has been made in two versions, each with a different ending that will randomly be shown across the country in each form. We find this idea to be an excellent movie technique that provides incentive to see both versions of the film, or later buy the director’s cut version of the DVD featuring the alternate endings. The movie was shot in 2017 in secret, perhaps because of the alternate endings.
We liked Unfriended: Dark Web and recommend it for fans of horror movies. High levels of tension and violent death means leave the little ones at home. Tweens and teens of normal temperament should tolerate the movie just fine.
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For more information, please see…
Bartlett, Jamie. The Dark Net: Inside the Digital Underworld. Melville House, 2016.
Roxbrugh, Ellis. The Dark Web: The Covert World of Cybercrime (Classified: Secrets You’re Not Supposed to Know). Lucent Books, 2018.