SXSW 2018: Unfriended: Dark Web Review – A Suspenseful Descent Into Internet Terror
Written and directed by Stephen Susco
It’s hard to call Unfriended: Dark Web a sequel to Blumhouse’s 2014 supernatural horror film Unfriended. While the latter was a haunting story, the former is based purely in reality, resulting in a truly suspenseful movie that offers dire warnings about the internet and how carefree we are with our technology. Although stylistically similar, the sequel is a stark departure.
Unfriended: Dark Web follows Mattias (Woodell), who opens the film by starting up a laptop he recently purchased – later revealed to be stolen – and finding a way to decipher the password. Once in, we see a suspiciously empty desktop with only the hard drive icon present. After putzing around a bit by Facebook messaging his girlfriend, Amaya (Nogueras), and Skype chatting with several of his friends, he reveals a hidden folder that is packed to the brim with videos of people in their homes doing everyday tasks, as though they are unaware that they were being recorded.
This leads Mattias and his friends to discover that this laptop is being used for something called “The River,” a portal into the Dark Web where mysterious avatars, each a different numbered “Charon,” make horrifying requests. Once they’re discovered, the real game begins; and the lives of everyone is at stake.
Unfriended: Dark Web is a tense film, there is no doubt about that. While it embraces using tried-and-true jump scares, the movie excels at building tension by making it clear how vulnerable this group of friends really is. Since they’re infinitely more likable than the characters of the first film, their peril feels more unsettling. Furthermore, the premise of the “mistake” that kicks everything off is much more innocent. Stealing a laptop out of desperation versus uploading a video to humiliate a young woman into killing herself? It’s clear that Unfriended: Dark Web‘s infraction doesn’t warrant the response we see unfold.
Apart from some obvious exaggerations when it comes to the timing within the film’s world and some very silly simple mistakes (at one point we see that the laptop has a few hundred kilobytes of free space, but that’s immediately followed by Mattias downloading a 6Mb file…), Unfriended: Dark Web is an unrelentingly effective, albeit cruel, experience. If you’ve never thought to put tape over your webcam, this movie will scare you into doing so.
A dark, grim, and truly unsettling example of tech-horror, Unfriended: Dark Web is a reminder that we’re never safe from prying eyes.