Night #1: The Den

Welcome faithful reader. It’s that time of year again, a time for pumpkin spice latte and walks in the park. The nights are coming in earlier, and the temperature is dropping. It’s the best time of the year and, more importantly, it’s time for 31 Nights of Frights (Alternate titles: Shocktober, Horrorthon, Halloween Havoc). So without further ado, lets get to it.

Elizabeth (Melanie Papalia) is studying the habits of people who chat online. From her apartment she browses chatrooms and talks to the people that frequent them. It’s in one of these chatrooms that she witnesses a brutal murder. We wouldn’t be here now if things didn’t go wrong.

It’s a thin premise, but it works. Someone is watching Elizabeth and they want to see what she sees. They target her and her loved ones. They access her computer and record her every move. It’s like that idea in the Sharon Stone classic Slither where one of the Baldwin Brothers is watching everyone who lives in his building, except updated for the internet age. Also, spoilers for that movie.

There’s not that much to say about The Den except to say that things go from bad to worse for poor Elizabeth. What it does have though is a gimmick. The movie all takes place through the lens of a webcam, or a camera. It finds the gimmick and commits to it without cheating. It’s admirable that Director Zachary Donohue sticks with this, even if he has to find increasingly contrived ways of doing it, particularly by the end.

I suppose this would lumped in with ‘found-footage’ movies which still seem to be all the rage these days (I feel like I said the same thing at some point during last year) but it actually earns it. Whatsmore, Donohue finds an answer to the questions “Why would anyone still be filming?” and “Who put all this footage together?”. Personally I don’t care for either question, they basically don’t matter. You can make up any story you want, but the moments before the first frame and after the last one shouldn’t make any difference to what’s on screen. But then that’s just me.

As always I try to avoid spoilers here, particularly when it’s a movie that I liked. It provides a good counterpoint to the similar Megan Is Missing in which a schoolgirl seeks out her missing friend, only for it to end in thirty minutes of absolute exploitative misery (I have nothing against exploitation, so long as it’s well done). Yes the movie ultimately strains credibility, but it contains a nice little sting in its tail. By providing context for what happens, and also serving as a commentary on the banality of evil, The Den is a nice bit of downer entertainment.

Downer entertainment? Yeah that’s a phrase I just used.


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