'Unfriended: Dark Web' Review: Visuals and Storytelling Both Shaky Directed by Stephen Susco

Starring Rebecca Rittenhouse, Betty Gabriel and Colin Woodell
'Unfriended: Dark Web' Review: Visuals and Storytelling Both Shaky Directed by Stephen Susco
Online game night takes an alarming turn when Matias (Colin Woodell) and his friends discover a dark web collective that trades videos of themselves torturing and killing young women. Like the first Unfriended, Unfriended: Dark Web tells its story through webcams, computer and phone screens. But where the first film incorporated supernatural elements, the horror in this one is rooted in the idea of the "dark web" and the endless criminal potential that lives in the digital unknown. The dark web users behind the videos hack the group's Skype conversation and threaten all of their lives.
Having the horror rooted in the digital rather than the mystical plays on a genuine, growing fear of how technology and hacking can be used for surveillance and crime. However, the exposition and details are handled kind of goofily, with one of Matias's friends, AJ (Connor Del Rio) straightforwardly explaining "the dark web" to the group — a short tutorial to make sure no viewer is left behind. The film makes sure to raise the stakes as much as possible, as AJ emphasizes all of the bad guys and criminal activity the dark web is used for. Bitcoin becomes an ominous currency being traded in exchange for murder and tiny anonymous Skype icons of the hackers pop up on their screens, intended to be horrifying.
Having the film told through the perspective of webcams and screens is a modern iteration of found footage sub-genre of horror films, and at first glance seems like it could be a Blair Witch Project for the digital age. However, where shaky handheld cameras add a certain visceral immediacy and allows the viewer to feel they are part of the experience, watching the narrative unfold entirely on phone and computer screens makes the action a degree removed. The film manages to maintain a surprising amount of tension, but ultimately falls short of weaving a genuinely disturbing tale of the digital abyss.
(Blumhouse Productions)