was a slight, but mostly effective high-tech variant on the slasher movie. Instead of having a bunch of kids being bumped off by an evil spirit in the woods or in a sorority house, they were being killed by the ghost of a former classmate that was somehow able to take control of their computers while the heroes were doing a live internet chat. No, it did not make a lot of sense if you applied any sort of logic to it, but it was a clever gimmick for a horror film, and it was kind of fun to watch it with an audience of uppity teenagers.
I think the reason why Unfriended: Dark Web
did not work for me is because the movie is much more ambitious than the first, and tries to explain too much. Rather than chalking the events that happen to the kids this time around as "paranormal", the movie tries to convince us that a bunch of murderous hackers can do impossible things when it comes to voice editing and video photoshop. The movie can be graphic and gruesome, and many of the deaths are way over the top, and not in a "fun" sort of way. This movie wants to be edgy, harsh and unforgiving. But, because it asks us to take so many leaps of logic and is constantly trying to explain itself, the movie is just not that scary. And as the movie becomes more and more absurd, you just kind of stop following it.
The plot this time around centers on Matias (Colin Woodell), who needs a new laptop, so he decides to swipe one that's been sitting in the Lost and Found for the past few weeks at the Internet Cafe where he works. He sets up a Game Night over Skype with some of his friends, which include comic relief AJ (Connor Del Rio), British tech genius Damon (Andrew Lees), the recently engaged to each other Nari (Betty Gabriel) and Serena (Rebecca Rittenhouse), and the rebellious Lexx (Savira Windyani). Matias also has a girlfriend named Amaya (Stephanie Nogueras), who is deaf, and whom he is having issues with early on. When the killers start stalking Matias' friends, the movie does build a little bit of tension by having Amaya not being able to hear that the villains are in her apartment or following her, but it doesn't do enough with this angle to be successful.
While Matias is chatting with his friends and trying to work things out with Amaya at the same time, he begins to uncover some things about the laptop's previous owner when he digs into the computer's files, and starts bringing up creepy videos of people on camera who obviously don't know they're being filmed. Chief among them is a video of someone sneaking into a teenage girl's bedroom while she sleeps. Matias does a quick search, and finds an article about that same girl having gone missing. It turns out that the previous owner was involved in the criminal dark web, and now Matias has gotten himself and his friends involved in a deadly game where these hackers and criminals can pretty much control every aspect of your life.
You kind of have to admire these criminals, because as Dark Web
goes along, their plans and methods to wipe out Matias and his friends one-by-one become more elaborate and far-fetched. Some of the scenes are actually pretty depraved and would have been shocking if writer-director Stephen Susco (a long-time horror writer making his directorial debut) did not ask us to suspend so much disbelief. This could have been a poignant and chilling film if it had just taken a less extreme approach to everything. As it turns out, it's a lot of missed opportunities mixed with some unintentional bad laughs. The internet can be a scary place, and this movie could have tapped into something raw and powerful if it hadn't been so concerned with going after shock horror and violence.
It all boils down to the simple fact that Unfriended
did not need a follow up, and this one doesn't do anything to warrant the existence of one. There is a movie coming out next month called Searching
, and uses a similar "on line" gimmick to tell the story of a father searching for his missing daughter, and uncovering her secret on line life. I can only hope that film takes itself a bit more seriously, and taps into the genuinely chilling experience that certain areas of the internet can be.