Unfriended : Dark Web falls under a fairly new sub-genre of found footage screencasting, in which all of the film’s action is seen through some kind of computer or mobile screen. The first Unfriended (originally showed at Fantasia under the title Cybernatural) obviously fell under that flag, as did another Fantasia entry, Open Windows. I personally liked both of these.

This is the direct opposite of the other film I just saw at Fantasia, Summer of ’84, in that the latter is classic (downright) retro filmmaking done to emulate the era in which it takes place and in this case, it couldn’t be more topical. This is not what you learn in film school, though basic storytelling structure still applies.

Matias is breaking in his previously-owned new computer, establishing communication with his deaf girlfriend and soon joining a live group video chat with his friends for Game Night. This is how people interact in these films: solely through their screens. And it’s surprisingly effective seen in a theatre, considering it’s a format we’re all used to deal with intimately. Matias starts receiving messages aimed at the computer’s previous owner, and soon enough discovers files that he shouldn’t open…

Dark Web does a really good job of building a horrific storyline based off of the technology that is now a huge part of our lives, and that’s the hook of this sub-genre.  This isn’t Black Mirror-type science fiction though, but everything that we see is possible with what we all have today, and the implications and applications are very well exploited by the filmmakers.  It’s a no-brainer, really. There’s very little here that I’d imagine hasn’t already been done in real life. There’s a scene involving a swatting incident that shows just how easy and deadly something like that could be used.

The acting is uniformly good, and the characters fairly likeable. There’s quite a bit of character development which is cleverly built so that certain aspects of one of our protagonists’ lives will be used against them later (we’ve all heard about how that camera on our computer is never really off, right?).

This is a horror-thriller first and foremost and its aim is to, well, scare and thrill. The plot is successful as it continuously builds up and the stakes rise up, as do the revelations and twists. For my money, the script is solidly built and maintains our interest until the climax as things escalate until the final revelation. Upon scrutiny this may end up being  the type of situation in which too much rode on people making the exact right decision (kinda like the Joker’s plan  in The Dark Knight or Lex Luthor’s in Batman v Superman) to fit in to the grand scheme of things, but it remains damn effective nonetheless.

The really scary part is how all of this is essentially plausible, unlike the first Unfriended (which remained highly effective in my opinion) which had a supernatural element. You don’t need one. The horror’s already here, ready to be exploited.