Fantasia 2018 – Unfriended: Dark Web review
ComingSoon.net attended Fantasia Fest‘s International Premiere of Blumhouse’s latest horror offering, Unfriended: Dark Web, the stand-alone sequel to the 2014 hit film Unfriended. While the sequel retains the same format of real-time horror unfolding over a group Skype chat, it loses the supernatural angle, instead choosing to focus on the more “realty”-based idea of mysterious Dark Web forces controlling our innocent protagonists.
The story kicks off when twenty-something protagonist Matias (Colin Woodell) cracks into a laptop he stole from a local cafe. He’s a budding software developer, and has been building a beta version of a program to communicate with his deaf girlfriend Amaya (Stephanie Nogueras), although their relationship is on the rocks. His opening of the laptop coincides with an online game night planned between Matias and his friends Nari (Get Out‘s incredible Betty Gabriel) and her fiancee Serena (Rebecca Rittenhouse), computer expert Damon (Andrew Lees), conspiracy theorist AJ (Connor Del Rio) and hipster DJ Lexx (Savira Windyani).
While the news of Nari and Serena’s engagement is given added weight with the revelation that Serena’s mom is dying in a hospital, the real drama is between Matias and Amaya… that is until Matias accidentally realizes the laptop is chock full of black & white surveillance footage which is later revealed to contain snuff films. After accessing the previous owner’s Facebook pages, he begins an involuntary dialogue with said owner whose online nickname is Charon IV (Douglas Tait). As Matias slowly unravels the mystery of what sort of sick things Charon IV has been doing, he begins a deadly game of cat and mouse while trying to protect his friends from sinister forces.
Screenwriter and first-time director Stephen Susco (The Grudge, Texas Chainsaw 3D) delivers a steady pace and elicits consistently solid performances across-the-board from his cast. He also wisely keeps all the footage authentic. There’s nothing worse than a movie with phone or surveillance footage that looks like it was shot and lit by a master DP. Susco keeps the look of everything grounded (all the operating systems on the laptop are up-to-date!), and doles out just enough scares to keep us invested. He also included a fun blink-and-you’ll miss it Cambridge Analytica joke that made this reviewer smile.
Where the film eventually strains credulity is when the evil Dark Web sickos start encroaching in on our leads, and the level to which they can quickly control and access anything they need to manipulate or hurt them starts to take on an almost magical aura that would make Newt Scamander skeptical of its authenticity. It’s clear this is a horror movie and we can suspend disbelief to an extent, but some of the kills are a little too neat and tidy. It also should be noted that at the Fantasia screening the audience erupted into cheers and applause at one particular character’s death, and it’s hard to tell if it’s because the character deserved to die, the audience had no empathy, or both.
For a Blumhouse scarer, Unfriended: Dark Web is not breaking any new ground, proving more “Dork” than “Dark,” although it may encourage a few horror fans to put a piece of tape over that little camera on top of your computer… even when it’s not on!
Unfriended: Dark Web will arrive in theaters on July 20, 2018.