The original Unfriended was a profitable film for Blumhouse studios, so it’s pretty clear why the studio decided to give the film a sequel. However, the sequel we received has almost no resemblance to the first, beyond the directorial style being relatively similar. The film loses its paranormal edge for a much more realistic dark web theme that adds an intenseness to the entirety of the film instead of an overall silly tone like the original. It was not a film that I was expecting to like, but in the end I left surprised and happy with the overall result, while dreading the internet and the people on it even more than ever before.
Similar to the original internet dashboard view, Unfriended: Dark Web takes the idea of this and makes it much more slick and stylish; this provides a complex narrative focus within the web pages presented on the main characters’ computer screens. On paper, this film sounds like the dumbest idea to hit screens in some time, yet it surprises us with its noteworthy direction. It never steers away from a screen perspective, and if it doesn’t seem believable that someone would be filming at any particular moment, the film chooses to not show it. It’s essential in Stephen Susco’s direction that it all stay relatively grounded to what someone on the wrong side of this internet nightmare would be experiencing.
When Matias (Colin Woodell) begins to have game night with a few of his close friends over Skype, he begins getting mysterious messages about a laptop he is using. While receiving intimidating threats about the laptop that he presumably found earlier in the day, he is told to return it. While considering how to go about these threats, Matias uncovers the contents of the laptop and goes deeper into the mysterious threats he has received. Scared and curious of the contents, he shares them with his friends, getting them all involved with the mysterious videos- along with the people they belong to. The film showcases the circumstances of this discovery, and the pacing of everything occurring during the skype call is realistically timed. The film’s plot is tense and well executed in its direction thanks to the man who wrote the scenarios down on paper having every scene be intensely horrifying. While the film is well made, the writing does have a few rushed moments. Some do feel realistic in comparison to the timeline built for the film, however at other times, some of the characters exit with brief impact. It’s really a nitpicky aspect of the critical process of this film, but the unique two endings that were released separately in different theaters makes me have to say that while I was okay with the ending I received, the other ending (in writing) sounds like a much, much better way to close out the film
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
One of the biggest issues with the original Unfriended was that none of the characters were likable- not even slightly. Unfriended: Dark Web fixes this in many ways. While not all of the characters have as much characterization as a typical horror movie would present us with, by the time of their exit from the film, we are given enough to ultimately care about their departure. Viewing them all through a screen within a screen makes their acting a little less of a necessity to be of extraordinarily high quality, but their acting is strong enough to pull us through the film without ever holding us back with poor acting.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The score is built around the prominent use of sound effects and music from only the songs, along with actions, selected on screen by the characters. The film makes sure to utilize every click to the point of excess. It’s a neat and clever change of pace from the now usually bland scores of most low budget horror films, yet it’s just a little bit disappointing how its cleverness gets slightly too full of itself near the film’s closing act and delivers a less than memorable score up to when the credits roll.
It’s not as deliberately gory or silly as its predecessor, so the effects aren’t given as many close-ups. It’s not a bad thing though, because the sharp cuts and “shock value” cuts are well executed, with the little blood effects in the film coming off as a realistic showing of casualty. Nothing really requires a close-up approach to the vicious acts taking place on screen. The only questionable CGI (or practical effect) is near the film’s conclusion where a young woman shows to the camera that she has a hole drilled in her head; it’s a callback to earlier in the film, however the effect looks slightly off and doesn’t display the brutality as well as it it should to the audience. The overall set design and video design are all simplistic as they should be, but I do wish that some of the videos were shown to their completion, similar to another horror film (Sinister) containing unsettling footage. Like I previously mentioned, Unfriended: Dark Web has a simple but well pieced together set design that helps the film retain it’s minimal budget while maintaining a well concentrated storyline.
Unfriended: Dark Web is a riveting modern-day horror film that is fueled with intense cyber realism. The film is oddly original and in no way links to the first film, which makes it even more compelling. It’s a sequel that deserves to be watched not by fans of it’s predecessor, but for those doubting the capabilities of its direction and writing from the trailer or premise alone. It’s a movie that I would recommend, and it’s certainly one that truly gets under the skin of anyone who’s ever been slightly afraid of going to the wrong side of the web.