(mild spoilers ahead)
Unfriended: Dark Web (2018), a standalone sequel to 2015’s Unfriended, shifts from its predecessor’s focus on supernatural horror to a gritty and ruthless exploration of the corrupt side of not only the internet, but of human nature itself. In the film, a college student named Matias (Colin Woodell) steals a laptop from the lost-and-found section of his workplace. When he uses the laptop during a game with his friends via webcam, they discover that the laptop stores a collection of horrifying video files, as well as a direct link to the area of the dark web in which these videos are exchanged. As they travel deeper into the dark web, the owner of the laptop intervenes, intent on reclaiming the laptop at any cost.
Unfriended: Dark Web distinctly improves on the previous film with its emphasis on character development, realistic horror, and rising intensity. While not every main character is equally fleshed-out, the more detailed characters lend emotional weight to their desperate circumstances—particularly the two couples in the film, Nari (Betty Gabriel) and Serena (Rebecca Rittenhouse) and Matias and Amaya (Stephanie Nogueras), respectively. Both couples bring depth to the film—Nari and Serena’s relationship maintains hope and love amidst parental disapproval and family illness, and Matias and Amaya’s relationship involves the struggle between a deaf person and a hearing person to find both understanding and intimacy in their conflicting methods of communication. With the enhancement of the sincere performances by the aforementioned actors, the moments of emotion add a devastating punch to the terror ahead.
Although the pacing of the movie is initially slow, it gradually increases its momentum through a steadily-climbing sense of dread that releases an explosive chain of generally creative kills. As much of the horror plays upon modern fears in terms of the internet and technology (such as the possibility of being constantly watched through the webcam on one’s laptop or having one’s personal information exposed to potentially dangerous people), the storyline within the film is frightening in its relevance in the real world, and generates the eerie feeling that certain events in the movie are plausible outside of fiction.
Overall, Unfriended: Dark Web serves as not only an engaging reinvention of the previous film’s format, but as an entertaining and unnerving horror film in its own right.
(Writer’s note: I was so taken in by the paranoia of the film that, the moment that I came home from the screening of this film, I immediately placed masking tape over my laptop’s webcam.)