Film Review – Unfriended: Dark Web
Unfriended: Dark Web
When the opportunity arose to watch and review the sequel to Unfriended, a minor 2014 cult hit I’d never seen, I jumped at it for a couple of reasons. One, a dear friend is an unapologetic sucker for teen thrillers and I’m always looking to impress people with my plus one powers. And two, I myself have a weakness for found footage films, even (or especially) the gimmicky ones.
So I figured I’d better rent the first one in preparation and was decidedly underwhelmed. Occasional scare notwithstanding, I found myself forgetting most of it almost immediately. “What was I thinking?” I asked myself as I shuffled dutifully into Unfriended: Dark Web. Well, friends, I’m here to tell you: it’s better than the first one?
For the unfamiliar, the hook of the Unfriended series is its desktop POV. Every minute of Dark Web‘s mercifully short 88 is from the vantage point of Matias’ (Colin Woodell) laptop screen. From Spotify playlists to instant messages, we follow his online exploits in real time.
Jumping from a terse back and forth with his deaf girlfriend (a detail only worth mentioning because it eventually adds to the tension of the nightmare he’ll himself in) to a Skype-enabled game night with a group of friends, writer/director Stephen Susco‘s Dark Web handily accomplishes selling the mounting mundanity of 20-something life while we the audience sit on our hands and wait for the scaredy shoe to drop.
We know from the opening scene, in which Matias is shown trying a variety of passwords before finally gaining access, that he likely didn’t secure his newfound laptop at his local Best Buy. This is soon confirmed when he begins receiving threatening messages from the laptop’s “true” owner, demanding its return. By this time, though, he’s already unwittingly uncovered a not-so-hidden folder on it containing hundreds of unsavory videos depicting everything from unlawful surveillance of strangers’ homes to shots of masked captors taunting women confined in barrels.
The movie only truly clicks into gear when the game night companions assess the danger they’ve found themselves in and begin working together to thwart this malevolent unseen manipulator, all while stuck in front of their computers and unable to call the police. (This boogeyman, like the best of them, has stipulations and hostages.)
The friends are mostly your garden variety stereotypes, with Connor Del Rio‘s Alex standing above the rest in terms of sheer volume. Betty Gabriel also makes an impression as Nari, as the only no-nonsense one in the group as the devastating stakes are gradually revealed.
Dark Web ditches the supernatural element of its predecessor and is better off for it. This is not to say the plot that unfurls this time around is in any way believable. I wouldn’t dare give away any of the film’s exceedingly silly reveals, but to accomplish what the villains here manage to is starkly and hilariously implausible. Still, who goes to a movie titled Unfriended: Dark Web and is offended by plot holes?
Look, this is a nasty little thriller with few people to root for (if only because they’re not fleshed out enough to care about). It’s also fiendishly clever. Just how do you pick these kids off one by one from the comfort of an internet cafe, after all? A Final Destination for the social media era, Unfriended: Dark Web is as pointed as it is dumb, dumb fun.