Monday, March 16, 2020

So You've Decided to Play With Bitcoin

Another social media slasher? Must be Monday!

What a fine time to be alive.

Quick Plot: Early twenthysomething Matthias is updating his brand new/used Macbook just in time for Skype-style game night with a few pals. He's hoping the new bandwidth will make it easier to build an app designed to improve communication with his deaf girlfriend Amaya. Apparently, constructing a translation program is easier than attending a few classes in ASL.

As he fumbles through the setup process, Matthias becomes intrigued by his computer's previous owner Norah, a mysterious man who made a lot of promises to women on Facebook while hiding some very dark videos in buried folders. When he shares them with his Skype circle, Matthias realizes he's stumbled on a very dark, very dangerous dark web.

Or, like, The Den. He found The Den. 

Which is super confusing since Unfriended: Dark Web reads more like a sequel to The Den than the first Unfriended, which was actually about online bullying and Facebook ghosts, sort of like Friend Request (the one about Facebook, not the one about Anthony Michael Hall playing Gary Busey). It's incestuous and confusing and for the sake of you, dear reader, I'll try to push past it.

Side note: remember how we learned that Anthony Michael Hall doesn't know where a woman's ass is actually located? Good GOSH I love Friend Request 

Anyway, before Skype can crash and demand you update to the next version, Matthias and his pals have become the newest targets for Norah's sadistic cohorts. 

Like the unrelated Unfriended, Dark Web is "set" entirely on a laptop. We see snippets of Norah's dirty deeds via his grainy videos, and real-time attacks as he sets his sights on Matthias's pals. First time director Stephen Susco (who previously penned a batch of horror scripts, including the 2004 remake of The Grudge) seems to have learned from the glut of internet horror films, keeping the action fairly clear in view and not forcing its audience to squint.

Yes, we're still victims to the typical "lots of attractive people shouting at the same time to the monitor", but perhaps because the characters are a little more mature than most of these types of films, it's not nearly as irksome. It might have been a simple personal preference, but I found myself moved enough by the better-than-usual cast to care about their fate. Once the action hits its point of no return, Susco creates some genuinely effective tension. 

Much like The Den, Smiley, and the very crowded catalog of these kinds of films, I'll probably have a very hard time remembering any of the particulars of Dark Web. It doesn't create a lasting impression or offer anything that new, but for its 90 minutes, I was pretty taken and invested. Sometimes that's all you want a horror flick to do.

High Points
I've said it before and I'll likely say it countless times again: having your characters be nice people is vital to having your audience care whether they live or die. Matthias's pals aren't perfect, but the fact that our lead makes a key decision to save a stranger rather than himself goes a long way in keeping us on his side

Low Points
The fact that this movie has four different endings (two were apparently planned as a theater gimmick, which went over just as well as it did for Clue) suggests a certain lack of confidence in what the story be

Lessons Learned
No good can come from attempting to be ambitious with a used computer

Fast typing is a vital life skill

Any coed group of friends will always, without fail, include one straight white a$$hole

Look, Unfriended: Dark Web doesn't break any ground (well, unless you count two of the four alternate endings, but I digress). But hey, for its fairly quick running time, it gives you a pretty tense, very mean little ride into some very dark places. If that's appealing to you, you can catch it on Hulu. 

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