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film review

Rebecca Rittenhouse and Betty Gabriel in Unfriended: Dark Web.Universal Pictures

  • Unfriended: Dark Web
  • Written and directed by: Stephen Susco
  • Starring: Colin Woodell and Betty Gabriel
  • Classification: 14A
  • 88 minutes

Rating:

3 out of 4 stars

Pity the soul who decides to illegally torrent a copy of Unfriended: Dark Web. This hypothetical horror-movie fan may think they’re engaging in a thrifty act of corporate subterfuge − “To hell with the Hollywood studios making me pay for my entertainment!” I imagine they cackle while clicking “download” − but soon they’ll be in for a cruel surprise. Nasty in its narrative and nifty in its aesthetic, Stephen Susco’s new film is a solid argument against doing anything remotely illicit online.

Like its predecessor, Leo Gabriadze’s 2014′s surprise hit Unfriended, the action in Dark Web takes place entirely on the computer screen of its main character, with Skype chats, Facebook posts and YouTube clips propelling the narrative. Unlike the first film’s ghost story, though, Susco’s movie (sorta) swaps the supernatural for the (sorta) real-life perversity of the internet itself.

Here, a group of very annoying twentysomethings gather via video chat for a harmless online game night, until lead idiot Matias (Colin Woodell) discovers a hidden trove of literal torture porn on his ill-gained laptop. Cue terrible things happening to insufferable people at the hands of a shadowy cabal − plus wistful memories of this past spring’s delightful Rachel McAdams comedy, Game Night.

The visual trickery of Unfriended: Dark Web (and recent action-via-screen films such as the coming John Cho drama Searching) can feel exhausting, but Susco uses the in-frame gimmick to jerk the tension just right. The pure ridiculousness of the conceit may not work perfectly when balanced against the self-seriousness of the film’s message − namely, the internet is evil, and you are, too − but Susco’s creation is equal parts silly, terrifying and revolting. Like all the best horror movies.

Just be sure to mask your IP address should you see this outside bricks-and-mortar, ideally WiFi-free theatres.

Unfriended: Dark Web opens July 20