Another Installment of the Webcam Horror Series
DIRECTED BY STEPHEN SUSCO/2018
In Unfriended: Dark Web, Matias (Colin Woodell) has a new laptop. He bought it from Craigslist. The reason he bought it is very sweet, so he can download a new program on it that will allow him to speak to his deaf girlfriend whom he is losing from a lack of trying. Amaya (Stephanie Nogueras) is her name. He pops open the laptop, begins going through programs, chatting with Amaya, and in Skype, chatting with some other friends from all around the world.
And then, like that, he stumbles upon something that changes all their lives and the direction of the film. He finds a shady program called The River, which is where some of the richest men in the world congregate, despite the fact it has graphics on par with the mid-90’s computer game Doom. On this program, they order snuff films, and they get to pick the victims. And once Matias has stumbled upon this program, and they realize it, there is no turning back. He then admits to everyone he didn’t buy it, but actually stole it. And like that, he, his girlfriend and all of his unsuspecting friends, are in for a thrill ride of paranoid terror.
If you’ve seen the surprisingly good first film, Unfriended, then you know that to expect. You can also take a deep breath and relax, this film is in equally competent hands. The format is the same, but there are some huge differences. First and foremost, the images on the screen aren’t as isolated to a few rooms. Due to forms of technology that I am too old to understand, they are able to go on the streets, into the subway, on top of buildings, etc. That gives the film some more scope, but on the other hand, slightly defeats the purpose of it.
Another change from the first installment is that the supernatural element has been abandoned. Dark Web touches more on topical subjects in politics: paranoia, terrible online people shaping your conceptions of what people are really like, and the power of a cyber-attack being as dangerous as a physical attack (looking at you, Russia).
The script is the strongest part of the film. Regardless of the subject matter being about 20-somethings online, and about social media, it does not dumb anything down. The film plays out like an unraveling thriller. There are even parts that appear to be plot holes, moments that you discard as being something you just accept in a horror film but also take a few points off for, that are later brought back in and come around nicely.
A lot of what is done in Dark Web is new, but a lot is still hearkening back to the good old days of horror films. You still have thumping moral codes to be good and just mind your own business. Even if the punishment doesn’t fit the crime, if you just don’t steal or hurt others, life will be just fine. Dark Web is a nice blend between a new format to a genre that still pays respect to the old tropes.
This is the movie that Anonymous will love, because it shows them as efficient and not pathetic, but is really a movie that goes after everyone. As long as you are an online stereotype, which we all kind of are at this point, you will be a target. The ending, which reminds me a lot of the French horror film Ils, will give you a nice chill also.
Between Dark Web, The First Purge and following what films like Get Out did last year, like in the past, horror steps from the shadows and goes from being the genre that’s easily dismissed to being the genre that takes on what is happening in the world.