Warning: This movie review contains a few spoilers.
Unfriended: Dark Web (2018) is the first film directed by Stephen Susco, the screenplay writer of The Grudge (2004) and Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013). While Unfriended: Dark Web strives for high-tech horror, it is an epic fail in its attempt to scare viewers with the dangerous elements of the Dark Web.
The movie begins with a young man named Matias (played by Colin Woodell) entering passwords into a laptop. He manages to finally enter the right password and begins video chatting with his deaf girlfriend Amaya (played by Stephanie Nogueras) and some online friends, Aj, Damon, Lexx, Serena, and Nari (played by Connor Del Rio, Andrew Lees, Savira Windyani, Rebecca Rittenhouse, and Betty Gabriel).
Seeing these people talking on and on during their game night was boring, and when nothing scary happened within the first fifteen minutes or so (my guesstimate of the time), I seriously thought that I might have entered the wrong viewing room at the theater. The fact that the movie had no traditional title sequence added to my confusion. I was about to leave my seat to double check that I was in the right place when the action picked up.
As the movie progressed, I found myself getting more and more annoyed by Matias. He asked for trouble by stealing a laptop computer from the lost and found at a cyber café. It’s bad enough that he stole it in the first place, but then he has to make things worse by messing around with the files and the Facebook profile on the stolen laptop while he is video chatting with Amaya and his friends.
When unknown people start contacting him about doing something shady that he knows nothing about on the stolen laptop, what does he do? He answers them! He just doesn’t know when to quit, and he ends up putting himself, his girlfriend, and his friends in danger because of his curiosity and foolishness.
The plot of Unfriended: Dark Web is about as sensible as Matias is. The main attraction of the movie seems to be seeing the twisted ways a shadowy network of ruthless Dark Web “gamers” kill off the main characters one by one. They go by the aliases of Charon I, Charon II, and so forth, so I will refer to them collectively as the Charons.
The Charons’ attempts to terrify the main characters with “ALL CAPS” messages and generic avatars that pop up on the main characters’ screens were more silly than scary. They and other people on the Dark Web appear to be betting on the outcome of this sick game, but we know that the game is rigged for only one outcome after the Charons dispatch killers to most of the main characters’ residences like something out of a James Bond movie.
The preposterous plot of Unfriended: Dark Web might have been tolerable if the four main characters were more formidable opponents, but we are stuck with these wimpy main characters whose responses to the Charons’ attacks are pathetic and ineffective. An example of this is when Nari and later Matias try to go down to the subway station to save Amaya. If they can’t even protect themselves from the Charons, how are they going to protect her?
And then there are the Charons themselves. Some of their behavior was contradictory, and some of their motives were unclear. They seem to be control freaks, yet they rely on chance to select their victims. Aren’t they worried that one of their enemies could get a hold of that laptop computer they use as victim bait or that someone smarter than Matias might take the laptop to the police once he or she sees the contents of the computer? They also tell Matias that they don’t want the police involved in their game, yet they have no problem calling the police on Aj or kidnapping a teenager named Erica Dunne (played by Alexa Mansour) who attracts the attention of the police after she is reported as a missing person by her family.
And I laugh when I think about how some of the Charons were wearing ninja costumes toward the end of the movie. What happened to the fancy image distortion technology a few of them used to remain anonymous earlier in the film?
After the movie was over, I stared at the film credits on the movie screen and wondered, “What did I just watch?” I left the theater feeling unsatisfied and empty. If you like being an online voyeur watching high-tech hooded thugs kill their annoyingly helpless victims with little blood or gore but plenty of overly dramatic music that is scarier than the storyline, then this is the film for you.