The internet can be a scary place, one filled with trolls, unsanctioned hate speech, and unprotected guidelines on the extent of individual freedoms. It takes the grey area of life to its tipping point, Stephen Susco realizes that and tries to unearth that authentic fright in “Unfriended: Dark Web,” but almost fails entirely. The differences between Levan Gabriadze & Nelson Greaves’s “Unfriended” are miserably noticeable.
It’s a repetition of the same introversion melodramatic horror that follows a group of tech-savvy millennials that somehow know the differences between megabyte and gigabytes, which is a google search away, yet the same age group that surrounds me seems to be unable to differentiate the two.
They stumble upon something they shouldn’t on a laptop that our protagonists stole from the lost and found at the cafe where he works. Soon, they find themselves being tormented and terrorized by a group of cyber hackers/trolls who exist of the dark web of the internet, a worldwide web living on darknets and overlay networks that require special software to access, yet one tech geek and four relatively knowledgeable college students have stumbled upon it with a MacBook?
Least to say, this is not a film for tech nerds or those surrounded by computer geeks. There’s an insurmountable of cliche hacking that is both implausible and unaccomplishable by a group of college kids. Not to mention the password for our illustrious cyber terrorist is “?” for a profile user named “?” Really?
This is where “Unfriended: Dark Web” is going to get away with a lot more than it should, using seemingly believable usages of computer intellect to trick the audience into trusting that these guys know what they’re talking about; they definitely do not.
The story, itself, is surrounded by its fair share of illogical developments, from the choices made by our characters to the cliched dumb protagonist. The characters themselves are tropes, with one-word descriptions like “the lesbian couple,” “the tech guy,” “the anti-tech guy,” and “the Chinese girl.” The deaf girlfriend joins the bunch of labeled characters, the one clever use of character relationships. The struggle of communicating with different languages over skype is quite challenging, one of the few interactions worth investing into.
There are some other bright moments in the screenwriting worth mentioning as well, such as how the technology is being used and, the mistermed, but somewhat authentic, tools used to hack and to check the data on the laptop. The thrills and shrills have some high points as well, becoming something worth investing in on more than one occasion. One of the film’s best sequences takes place when the truth becomes unveiled, and the threat to our protagonist becomes vitally critical, the story transitions into a hidden rescue attempt in which he must lie to his friends, keep the game going, and do everything he can to save someone’s life. It’s intrinsically designed for thrills, how that didn’t become the focal point from the start is beyond me.
The performances have their moments too, Colin Woodell delivers on more than a few occasions, and Rebecca Rittenhouse does some solid work as well. Andrew Lees and Connor Del Rio share some time in the spotlight but feed far more exposition than anything else. Stephanie Nogueras and Betty Gabriel are barely in the film enough to become something worth remembering.
Much like “Unfriended: Dark Web,” an unmemorable attempt at thrilling an audience with the clever use of technology which is still as clever as it was the first time, minus the illogical tech details. The characters and structure of the story are routine; it's anything but imaginative and teetering on the edges of sadistically stupid.
There’s enough here to provide something watchable and at times, believable, but “Unfriended: Dark Web” at the end of the day, is nothing more than another sad attempt at informing us of the dangers of hackers. It’s a prevalent threat, but with films like this, we might as well be the ones hiding on the dark web.