The Den is yet another POV flick with a twist. Instead of someone carrying around a GoPro and giving the viewer nausea with shaky cam syndrome, nearly the entire movie is seen from the view of a webcam. It’s always nice to see some sort of variance when it comes to an existing and very well established and prevalent genre, when it works. The Den does not work.
So, here’s the story: Elizabeth is a grad student who has just received a grant to study the habits of people when hidden behind the security of the internet and she decides to use a Chat Roulette-esque service called The Den. (Get it now?) It’s quickly explained why we can see everything she is doing because she is using a screen capture program so that she can record every interaction she has so she can go back and study the conversations she has and things she sees. She starts having a strange conversation with one of the members, using only private messages at first, but when the webcam works she witnesses a murder. She tries convincing the police and, surprise surprise, they don’t believe her. Then the people in her life start disappearing and getting hurt, continually becoming worse and more dangerous over time.
The Den is not a good movie. And it’s not so bad it’s good. It’s just bad. The plot is realistically harmful to the movie. It’s almost as if Zachary Donohue and Lauren Thompson, the director and co-writers of the movie, came up with the idea of having a movie that is completely webcam perspective and then wrote the rest of the movie around that one single idea. After watching the movie, it is not a strong enough premise to carry the entire movie.
About thirty minutes in it becomes apparent that Elizabeth is being hacked and she is not only getting hacked, but she is being spied and intruded upon by the worlds best hacker. They are doing things that all of our parents are always so worried about happening, controlling her entire computer just by her accessing this single website. They can literally power her computer on, sign into all of her different accounts, record her via her own webcam and track down all of her friends and family. If someone who is paranoid of technology saw this movie they would never even touch a smartphone again.
The most frustrating thing about The Den is that no one acts how people would act in real life. They are all the most irritating characters because the things they do are absurd. The police completely dismiss everything Elizabeth says despite her having video evidence, as does her boyfriend Damien. Even once her boyfriend goes missing and his entire apartment is ransacked save for a laptop left there to show Liz that he’s gone, the police do nothing but shrug it off. Her instructor has a two minute discussion with her before signing off right after saying “it’s obvious that you need help.” After a two minute conversation.
To put added frustration to the complete and utter lack of any sort of reality, the viewer has no idea of motive or background on the web-stalkers until the last minute of the movie. And when it is finally explained it’s such a throwaway explanation that it somehow makes the movie even less enjoyable. Melanie Papalia (seen in another Internet-driven thriller called Smiley) plays the lead and is the only somewhat redeeming quality. Her role is the only one with any form of intelligence, although even her smarts seem to wander occasionally, and she ends up putting up more of a fight than your traditional damsel in distress which is admirable.
Overall, The Den is a mess. The movie lacks true scares, awesome kills or even the routine flash of nudity to warrant any sort of viewing. It panders a silly and over exaggerated message of the dangers of the anonymity of the internet and the “nature” of people. It uses a silly plot to carry a ridiculous camera technique and delivers nothing but angst and irritation. Like Elizabeth does to so many of the other users in The Den, I’d skip this.
The Den arrives March 14th from IFC.