Review: Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)


Director: Stephen Susco | 92 minutes | crime, horror | Actors: Colin Woodell, Stephanie Nogueras, Betty Gabriel, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Andrew Lees, Connor Del Rio, Savira Windyani, Douglas Tait, Bryan Adrian, Chelsea Alden, Alexa Mansour, Rob Welsh, Alexander Ward, Kurt Carley, Chuck Lines

The young Matias buys a new laptop that appears to have been stolen. Worse, the device has even been used for shady practices in the recent past. Matias finds hidden documents showing videos of murdered women. He eventually ends up on the dark web and asks for help from friends, who are sucked into an increasingly dangerous situation. What follows is a sinister game of cat and mouse in which Matias must fend off threatening forces and invisible opponents.

We may not realize it when we surf the web every day, but the sites we can find through search engines make up only a modest fraction of the immense Internet. There is also the dark web, a ‘hidden’ part of the internet that can only be accessed with special software (Tor, Freenet) that provides the user with anonymity. The dark web is often used for things that cannot tolerate daylight. Consider, for example, viewing and distributing child pornography or concluding illegal commercial transactions.

Unfriended: Dark Web translates the sordid side of the dark web into a film that combines crime and horror elements. Just like in ‘Unfriended’, we sit glued to a computer screen for an hour and a half, looking at the perils of a bunch of American millennials. The paranormal approach of ‘Unfriended’ gives way in ‘Unfriended: Dark Web’ to a focus on the horrors of the man-made digital underworld.

Unfortunately, this at first sight potentially rich premise is not turned into a compelling or blood-curdling exciting film. Although director Stephen Susco does occasionally come up with interesting finds and scares, ‘Unfriended: Dark Web’ rarely gets really exciting or scary. This is mainly due to the cardboard, rather stupid and sometimes even somewhat cartoonish characters. For example, main character Matias seems to be allergic to logical thinking. Even when he starts to smell danger, he happily continues to open new and encrypted computer programs. In addition, he ignores many ostentatious warning signs (the ominous screen names of his digital stalkers,

Moreover, many situations and events seem mainly made up to propel the plot instead of arising from character development or natural-looking human behavior. The visual concept of ‘computer screens in screens’ works sparingly: on the one hand it makes you a part of the chaos and upheaval that the main characters feel, but it does become a bit irritating in the long run.

Despite some nice moments, ‘Unfriended: Dark Web’ is a rather disappointing exercise across the board. The main protagonists are so uninteresting and naive that it is difficult for the viewer to care much about their fortunes. In addition, many plot developments are very far-fetched. Quite fun to watch if you have little to do, but not a film that will stick around for long.

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