Cast: Colin Woodell, Betty Gabriel, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Andrew Lees
Director: Stephen Susco
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: When a 20-something finds a cache of hidden files on his new laptop, he and his friends are unwittingly thrust into the depths of the dark web. They soon discover someone has been watching their every move and will go to unimaginable lengths to protect the dark web.
This July really has produced some of the mediocre popcorn movies in recent months. Between The First Purge, Skyscraper, and Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, Unfriended: Dark Web continues the trend of simple movies that while not offensively bad, do not do anything impressive with their premise. While Unfriended: Dark Web is a slight improvement from the original movie, it still just too much of a gimmick to take seriously.
The film follows Matias (Woodell), as he and his friends have a game night over Skype. Matias has recently stolen a laptop from the internet cafe that he visits and finds that it is full of files that he did not anticipate looking into. Due to his snooping, he and all of his friends must face the consequences for his actions and find a way to survive the actions of people on the dark web. One of the major improvements from the previous film is that the characters this time around are flawed, whereas last time they were just purely unlikable. While all of the characters had traits that were either annoying or immoral, there was never a point where it was pushed too far, unlike the last movie where you end up rooting for the killer to rid us of these terrible people. I am impressed that Susco, a first time director, could improve on this issue as the first film made me believe that not even Martin Scorsese could make these characters likable. Outside of the character development though, the film is incredibly basic and does not take any risks. This is a typical, B-level horror movie that has evolved with the use of 21st century technology. One of the main gimmicks in this film is Matias’ girlfriend Amaya (Stephanie Nogueras) is deaf and cannot communicate with Matias very well. In the past year, we have seen some incredible performances by actors using sign language due to them either being mute or deaf, but this is not one of them. I do not know sign language, but based on Nogueras’ performance, neither does she. It looks like she took a very basic Intro to ASL class for six weeks and decided that was enough for this film. Many of the key elements of the plot revolve around her deafness, and it just feels like a cheap trick to give the film a sense of urgency and suspense. These work every once in a while, but most of the time it does not pay off. The area where the new-age technology really does not work though is whenever they show the antagonist on-screen. Whenever the antagonist shows up or something bad is going to happen to Matias or one of his friends, there is this staticky mess that appears to give show how much control the antagonist has and prevents Matias or the audience from seeing what is going on. I understand the intention behind these sequences, but it looks distractingly bad and does not do a great job of showing us this point. The final point that truly defines how much of a gimmick this film really is happens to be that there are two separate endings for this film. The ending I saw was passable at best, but this film is not nearly good enough to go out and buy a second ticket to see the other ending. Maybe if the film focused a little bit more on developing the ideas of the story and less on cheesy moments that will likely be forgotten, it could have been something other than your average, mindless summer horror movie.
Overall, Unfriended: Dark Web fits the typical Blumhouse formula in every way possible. It is cheap, lackluster, and everything you would expect from a horror movie coming out in the summer. I will give the film props for being better than the original, but that is not exactly the hardest task to accomplish. While the characters might have been better, the film still has its problems and does not want to be anything better than what it knows its target audience will enjoy.
Overall Score: 5/10