‘Unfriended: Dark Web’ is too disturbing for its own good

‘Unfriended: Dark Web’ is too disturbing for its own good

‘Unfriended: Dark Web’ is too disturbing for its own good
July 25
10:00 2018

I spent the entire drive home from the theater trying to figure out what exactly my stance is on “Unfriended: Dark Web.”

A suspense/thriller that takes place entirely via Skype call about dark web dealings is an incredibly interesting premise, in my opinion. A world where people can manipulate and ruin your life from behind a computer screen at an undisclosed location seems like a gold nugget in a genre that’s been stale and predictable for some time.

The movie plays on legitimate fears and concerns about privacy and safety in today’s internet age, and some of the content shown is scarily accurate. It often comes off as a tone-deaf and exploitative project, reflecting the real victims of what goes on at these real-life troublesome illegal sites.

Mattias (Colin Woodell) steals a laptop that has been sitting in lost and found from a café he works at. He takes it home, and while on a Skype call with his friends, he discovers vague files about crypto transactions, abduction, torture and other disturbing things that you can actually stumble into on the dark web. Without spoiling anything, there are several twists that left me just as dumbfounded as the protagonists as they watch their lives tampered with to stomach-churning degrees.

Let me get to the point: For the most part, the film captures what I think a lot of us fear in today’s world. Our lives can crumble in one night at the hands of a nebulous, faceless enemy. Hacking is the main culprit, but what all the antagonists manage to do with a computer in this movie is sobering, to say the least. To what extent these bizarre and clever tricks are actually possible to a tech layman like me, I’m not sure. Either way, what is shown is disturbing because when they stumble onto videos of people being tortured and abducted, I was simply reminded of the fact that there is no suspense of disbelief here. What happens in the movie depressingly occurs in real life. The moment-to-moment drama is cleverly paced and fascinating in a morbid way, but every 10 minutes my excitement or suspense was sullied by the harrowing true stories of the dark web. I know people who have turned away from religion because of the things this movie cheaply uses for entertainment.

The format left me feeling both entertained and simultaneously frustrated as well. The concept of watching all these things that are out of your control occur on your laptop screen (your money is messed with, you’re framed for unspeakable deeds, you’re witnessing someone exhibit total control over you) is extremely fascinating from a suspense point of view.

By that same token, though, I was essentially watching Skype calls, Spotify clicks and Facebook messenger notifications the whole time, which made me feel weirdly powerless that I was watching something I normally interface with. It was frustrating to watch every character make a decision that could have been easily fixed if I could just click on something on the screen. In the same way, I found myself thinking about what I would do to fix the situation, leaving me dissatisfied with the film’s conclusion. Perhaps a feeling of helplessness was the goal, but I found myself feeling frustrated with this trick.

I think the best thing here is the uncanny realization of the unpredictability of the faceless people of the dark web. However, by that same token, its unpredictability and premise hit too close to home to be considered a “good watch” to me. But if you like the show “Black Mirror,” there is a specific episode that is deeply similar to this film. I felt dirty and disturbed the whole time, and did not enjoy that lingering feeling sticking around throughout my day. There is no escapism to be had in this film. It’s even more frustrating, then, that it is a well-constructed movie with solid twists. It’s comparably acted and deceptively creepy.

Oh, and it’s a sequel. The first had a demonic slant, but that is pretty much non-existent for the most part aside from one, extremely cheesy and unexplained death in “Dark Web.”

While writing this review, my screen and toolbar glitched, and I got two calls from private numbers. Guess I’m just paranoid.

My Rating: 2/5

Featured Image: Courtesy “Unfriended: Dark Web” Facebook

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Zach Helms

Zach Helms

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