Unfriended Dark Web review Colin Woodell Rebecca RittenhouseYear: 2018
Director(s): Stephen Susco
Writer(s): Stephen Susco
Region of Origin: USA
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Rating: R
Digital, Color, 88 mins

Synopsis: A teen comes into possession of a new laptop and soon discovers that the previous owner is not only watching him, but will also do anything to get it back. (Source)

Whether we acknowledge it or not, the internet is an indelible part of our lives. From the most trivial to even more monumental uses, it’s inextricable to who we are and how we operate as a society. As with any technological advancement, however, it’s also one of the most dangerous weapons. Beyond the surface of the net, lies the deep web, which consists of more than 90% percent of the internet. It’s here where we become vulnerable, as the dark web hosts a myriad of unsavory users. While some are looking for privacy, there are deeper criminal applications, which Unfriended: Dark Web exploits. Digging deep into a world most of us could never even fathom, director Stephen Susco has created a mean, merciless piece of work, one that brims with taut precision and horrifying implications.

After booting up a newly acquired second-hand laptop, Matias (Colin Woodell) begins to make the computer his home. He logs into his favorite apps, inputs his passwords, connects to a Skype game night with his closest friends, and even contacts his girlfriend. After inadvertently connecting the new computer to everyone he loves and cares about, he notices that it barely has any hard drive space. After conferring with a friend via chat, he uncovers a hidden folder on the desktop. As he rifles through the folder, he discovers videos of young women being tortured or surveilled. Unbeknownst to him, the computer belonged to someone selling custom snuff videos to the highest bidder. After the computer’s former owner contacts him, Matias and his friends are placed in a dire situation, one which places Matias and his friends in imminent danger, unless he can return the computer to its rightful owner.

Essentially, the film is an extended cat-and-mouse game that unfolds 100% on the desktop of its characters. Like its predecessor, the film is very clever, doling out story and character points just by opening windows and exploring things like Facebook, Skype, social media and numerous digital files. While that sounds boring in explanation, Susco and co. have tapped into something primal, turning the most mundane aspects of our digital worlds against us in such violent and violating ways. As this cyber hunt systematically pits Matias and his friends against a villain (or villains) which they have absolutely no way of stopping, we watch in horror as the film explores the darkest appetites of the human psyche. If I’m being honest, the film is bit difficult to stomach, as it doesn’t hold back on some pretty disturbing ideas, making us really question what we’re capable of and how sick someone can be. Needless to say, if you aren’t rattled by the end of this, then you’re taking for granted the technology that runs our lives.

Unfriended Dark Web review Colin WoodellBecause of its unique presentation, the film relies on performances that go beyond what we’d normally never see. No one stands out, per se, but as a whole, Colin Woodell, Betty Gabriel, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Andrew Lees and Connor Del Rio create a unified portrait of fear and tension. It’s all the more when considering that each actor is emoting straight into the camera, and never meet throughout the film. Still, we feel the camaraderie between every actor and all the characters. And despite being linked only through numerous desktop windows, we have no problem believing that they are together, even if it is just through the net.

Like the best horror films, Unfriended: Dark Web isn’t so much scary because of what we see, it’s terrifying because of the ideas that line each scene. Even the most stretched technological ideas don’t feel so far from reality, or at least feel like something that would be possible in the near future. In the end, the film leaves us utterly shaken. After a lot of mean-spirited manipulation and some gruesome deaths, we can’t just brush off what we’ve seen. This is true horror, and all the more scary because it taps into a darkness that we don’t want to confront, as well as the fact that the internet is much more dangerous than we’d like to admit.

SG