SXSW 2018: Unfriended: Dark Web
Unfriended: Dark Web is exactly what it sounds like—using the same desktop point of view as 2014’s Unfriended, the sequel-by-name-only takes a deep dive into a sinister online underworld. It requires you to know a bit about Silk Road and the real-life Dark Web, but even if you’re in the… dark about it, you’ll have the film itself scream to you about The Dangers of the Dark Web!
The film’s imagery is certainly haunting—a cult-like society trades in outright evil footage and will stop at nothing to preserve its cabal. A twentysomething guy, Matias (Colin Woodell) happens to find the laptop of one of the cult’s members and garners some unwelcome attention during his friends’ Skype game night.
What worked in the first Unfriended also works here—there’s attention to detail with every mouse click in the computer window POV. Skype, Facebook, and Gmail are the familiar programs that are used in the unwrapping the mystery, and it never feels forced. The spinning wheel of death, the disappearing text bubble, and each sound notification make the experience immediately personal for the viewer, because who hasn’t done any of these remedial tasks in their day to day lives? What makes Dark Web all the more frightening is how familiar it all feels. Sure, you’ve had a program shut down because you were running too many programs, but you’ve never had your computer taken over because you uncovered footage secretly recorded by a group that trades in voyeurism.
Like any traditional horror movie, this is a group of friends just waiting to get picked off one by one. And, man, are they particularly annoying and just begging for the pain that awaits them. Dark Web is inventive in its scares and kills—each character who ends up dead has a setup and an appropriate kill scene. An Alex Jones-level conspiracy theorist screams about the loss of freedom in the internet age, and his ripped-from-the-headlines death might be the most gruesome in the film. While another character just so happens to mention a sick relative early on in the film, and by god, it comes up later on in the cruelest of scenarios. Dark Web may have not-so-bright or rather likeable characters, but that’s not what you’re here for. Brutality is where this horror film shines.
The only two people who you genuinely care are the couple at the center of the story—Matias and his deaf girlfriend, Amaya (Stephanie Nogueras)—which escalates the tension when she’s put in danger. The couple has a fight over an app—because of course—and Matias plays back a video of the two during happier times. It’s a sweet and smart moment that, again, sets us up for the pain ahead. The Unfriended series makes good use of the tools at its disposal.
The film veers into almost supernatural territory, as the dark web clan appears at will in cloaks and masks, causing the screen to digitally shutter and skip. Dark Web skirts between the impossible and what we think could very well happen if someone had the time, tech, and access like these Dark Web figures. It’s a horror film that makes us think twice about veering into the unknown, on and offline, like any other good horror film.