PLOT: Online game night for a group of friends turns into a nightmare when one of them connects to the group chat via a stolen laptop.
REVIEW: It’s fitting that UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB got a sneak peak at this year’s Fantasia Film Festival, as this Montreal genre institution is where the first film, UNFRIENDED (then titled CYBERNATURAL) got its world premiere and was acquired by Universal, on its way to a tidy $60 million plus gross. The sequel’s getting a somewhat smaller release through Universal’s OTL label and Blumhouse’s BH Tilt, but despite that this sequel is one of the better mainstream, non-arthouse horror films in a while, and should please opening weekend genre fans if they can get over the twist that, in my opinion, makes this such an effective follow-up.
While the first was straight-up horror, with a ghost haunting the web (a silly premise – but effectively done), this one switches things up by dropping the supernatural angle. While that does make this more of a thriller, the intensity, if anything, is dialed-up from the last film, with the Fantasia audience seemingly eating it up from the get-go.
The premise here is that nice guy Matias (Colin Woodell), who works at a cyber cafe, has taken a fancy laptop left in the lost and found in order to use it to build an app that interprets speech as sign language, in order to help his hearing-impaired girlfriend, Amaya (Stephanie Nogueras). Nothing goes well for poor Matias, with Amaya resenting him using app-based shortcuts to avoid learning sign language, while the computer’s original owners come calling. Wanna guess they’re up to some nasty stuff? During an online game night with some pals, he discovers a whole hard drive full of snuff films, and soon winds up in a dark web program where the ultra-rich shell out millions to see people killed, while the all-knowing program admins can hack into literally anything to target anyone sticking their nose where it doesn’t belong.
Pretty soon, Matias and his pals are being tormented by the “Dark Web” hackers, and writer-director Stephen Susco comes up with some novel ways they can use a web connection to kill. The carnage escalates, and before the tension can really deflate (as is often the case in these kinds of movies) the credits roll – making this a solid B-thriller.
It helps that the cast is solid this time around, with Woodell a none-too-bright but likable hero, with the hearing impaired Nogueras is excellent. The other friends are a bit more hit and miss, with each being stock characters (the conspiracy theorist, the mostly silent hacker girl, the cool British guy), although GET OUT’s Betty Gabriel is terrific as the lone member of the group with real, down-to-earth common sense, not that it really helps her any.
When you go see a movie like UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB, you obviously have to keep your expectations in check. This is a micro-budget, studio chiller, so don’t expect major, genre-bending twists. For that, wait until the next A24 movie. This is more low-key and mainstream, but as far as these types of movies go, UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB is pretty solid and worth checking out.