UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB

This may or may not come as a surprise, but I actually kind of enjoyed the first Unfriended. Yeah, the acting and dialogue were terrible and it wasn’t the least bit scary, but I really enjoyed the novelty of the concept and how creative the filmmakers got with it. It wasn’t groundbreaking, but it was certainly enjoyable. However, the concept really only works for so long and I never expected to see a sequel, especially one released 3 years later. We all know that sequels, especially horror ones, are rarely as good as the original. Well, if the original isn’t even that great in the first place, where’s the harm in doing it again?

In Unfriended: Dark Web, Matias (Colin Wooddell) finds a lost laptop at work, taking it home and booting it up. He jumps on Skype to join in on game night with his friends. The game night is going well, until Matias begins receiving ominous Facebook messages from mysterious strangers to the previous owner of the computer. As he delves more into the contents of the laptop, him and his friends uncover horrifying videos of women being held captive and murdered, as well as illegal transfers of cryptocurrencies. They soon discover that the laptop has abilities to access the dark web, and once they jump in, there’s no escaping as various dark web explorers begin killing them off one by one.

You gotta love buzzwords. The internet can be a scary enough place as it is (just ask any American mom), but throw the word “dark” in front of it? Well, you’re suddenly opening up the door for all sorts of nefarious activities. The dark net, deep web, or whatever does actually exist, but just like everything else that exists, Hollywood, advertisers, and other entities love to embellish things to scare us all into submission. It’s not different here, where writer/director Stephen Sucsco uses all of your cliché dark net tropes to up the ante of the events. Scraggly, black hoodie wearing hackers. Computer screen glitches whenever something “scary” happens. Dark net users having the ability to basically teleport as glitchy apparations with modulated voices. Like the first film, the premise is pretty silly and not the least bit scary, but it’s still awfully entertaining. It’s pretty much better in every department. The performances and dialogue are still pretty bad, but the characters are a bit more likable with a bit more development this time around. There’s actually an attempt to tell a real story here with Matias and his deaf girlfriend Amaya (Stephanie Noguera), who try to work out their own communication issues.  

As tacky as all of this dark net stuff is, it opens the door to a lot of creativity. The original just had a bunch of kids talking on Skype with a literal ghost in the machine killing them all off. The carnage does take a little while to get going, with the kills not coming until the last half hour, but once it gets going, it’s a blast. The many dastardly ways the dark web attackers would kill off our cast members was a constant treat. I love devious antagonists in horror films and the constant mind games they would play made me giggle with glee, as well as creeping me out a bit. Susco does a fine job at building tension even though it all takes place on a laptop screen. He perfectly captures the anxiety one would feel getting threatening messages from strangers and feeling like someone is watching you. There are some genuinely unsettling ideas and imagery here, made more real by the computer screen narrative device. If these Unfriended movies do anything flawlessly, it’s capturing the experience of navigating a computer, with all of the correct branding, user interfaces, and all. If these can be considered found footage movies, then they’re definitely the best, as they utilize the format in logical, unique ways, rather than someone running around and shaking a camera.

Just like its predecessor, Unfriended: Dark Web feels almost illegally entertaining. There’s just no reason why a teen demographic horror film that takes place all on a computer screen should be this fun, let alone twice. The filmmakers keep doing it, however. Even more surprising, they explored the concept even more and made it even better. The idea is truly played out at this point, though. However, I made that same remark about the last one. If another film in the Unfriended Cinematic Universe comes out down the line, I’ll definitely check it out. They’re mildly creative and entertaining diversions. Sometimes that’s all you need, especially in the mostly trash filled horror movie genre.

6.5/10

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