Directed By: Stephen Susco
I dug Unfriended when I saw it (I think I wrote about it last year) being as I dig anything that has a gimmick and I’m easily pleased. I didn’t think it needed a sequel but here we are anyway. There’s no supernatural gimmickry here though and instead, we’re thrust into the world of the ‘dark web’, in a story that’s somehow more preposterous than the supernatural goings-on of the first.
Though the gimmick is the same we get treated to a different story this time around when cyber cafe worker Matias buys a laptop from Craigslist and he and his friends indulge in their regular game night over Skype (Is this how people generally use Skype? Am I missing out on some great times?). Something is fishy with the previous owner though and Matius starts to see evidence that things are not right before we’re introduced to the dreaded dark web.
There’s something ludicrous sounding about the all too real ‘dark web’. For those who don’t know it’s a version of the internet that isn’t indexed the same way the regular internet is and so it’s used by people paranoid the government is out to get them and people who want to commit the shadiest of acts. It’s actually surprising that more movies haven’t tapped into this yet so at least Unfriended has that going for it. Although it reminded me all too much of the pretty bad TV show we had here called Killer Net which tried to tap into some late 90s fears about the internet. So the more things change the more they stay the same.
I appreciate the little details they get right in this like the way Spotify starts up after you’ve rebooted or how you have to enter a command into the terminal window to show hidden files on a Mac (That’s probably the nerdiest thing I’m ever going to type. Promise). Though they go pretty wild on everything else like the way the army of dark web assassins are able to digitise themselves out of live feeds and some mumbo-jumbo about a chat room being accessed after a Minecraft-ass animation plays. But whatever, at least it’s not one of those awful CSI moments where they reveal a car’s licence plate by enhancing on the reflection of the eye of a passing seagull.
All in all, I think I preferred the morality tale of the first movie, supernatural shenanigans included, than the mean-spirited display here. Not least of all because I kind of liked the diverse cast and because once it’s all set in motion there’s a pretty grim inevitability to how it all plays out. I understand that happy endings are not all that common in these things and I accept that, begrudgingly, but from time to time these things start to feel a little pointless.
Curiously I come back to Killer Net again. Make no mistake about it that was awful, but it was couched in some understandable fear of the unknown and when 128k modems were usually the best anyone could get. They had an excuse. This could’ve existed back in 2004 and not been all that different. It pays lip service to some very real modern ideas (One character is killed after he’s ‘swatted’, which is sadly getting to be too common) when at the same time having an outdated mentality. While the first movie at least seemed to be a cautionary tale about cyberbulling, there’s nothing like that here unless not taking a strangers laptop from a cyber-cafe lest they be part of an international ring of faceless internet boogeymen who will then use all their leet hax0r skillz to find and systematically kill off your friends is the lesson in which case fine, consider it a lesson learned.