No singular being falls victim to the “unfollow” button on Facebook here, which removes you from your mildly-healthy relationships digitally and in reality. Dark Web doesn’t bother to attempt to continue the narrative of Laura Barnes and whatever group of alpha-males and insecure prom queens she’ll go onto haunt next, it instead focuses on the side of the internet that can do meaningful and irreversible harm, the deep web. Everyone can agree that even though the first Unfriended film was a wildly ambitious concept that pioneered the “computer screen horror” sub-genre, it was riddled with performance flaws and nitpicks. Here, writer/director Stephen Susco mostly perfects the concept of filming over Skype and doesn’t have his actors teleport around their rooms between takes.
The harshest and most alarming transition between the first film and Susco’s vision are the victims of the gruesome kills. In the 2014 UNFRIENDED, which was reminiscent of all the tropes of a b-horror movie, the overlaying message had a strong potency of “what goes around comes around”. Although this time around, Susco’s take on the internet is leaps and bounds more nihilistic then anything Universal would be comfortable releasing into mainstream theatres. The lead characters in DARK WEB are all genuinely good people. The lead protagonist that gets his friends into this mess, Matias, is a lovesick 20-something programmer that takes a computer from the lost-and-found bin at his job in hopes to finish a software that will help him and his mute girlfriend communicate. This was, in no way, shape, or form, the correct thing to do in this situation but the human heart speaks louder than words and his intentions were true. From that point on, Matias partakes in a digital cat-and-mouse with people who will kill to get that laptop back in their possession. It is truly heart-wrenching watching these decent people, some of which just got their faith restored in life, succumb to their inevitable fates.
Realism is key when making one of these films. The original UNFRIENDED film was filled to the brim with actors breaking character, characters changing places in their room between takes and the constant stigma of the feeling the film not being scary because it could never happen. Not only does DARK WEB feature far more interesting characters and better performances but the situation our characters are catapulted into is entirely possible. Out of morbid curiosity, I have been following quite a lot of actual crimes that are committed/folk-stories from the deep web and have been from an oddly young age. The sequence of events is obviously hyperbolized for the sake of entertainment but isn’t totally blown out of proportion into a dark-pit of brushing it off of your shoulder.
This stuck with me ever since I first saw it, and rewatching it in a packed theatre had affirmed the idea in my mind that this may just be the magnum opus in Bazeleves production filmography. I genuinely can’t wait to see the projects that this team of ambitious filmmakers come up with next and I hope and pray that they continue to experiment with horror film concepts and formulas.
Unfriended: Dark Web will be released by Universal Pictures later in 2018. Watch Get Reel Movies for updates!