Starting with 2015’s Unfriended, producer Timur Bekmambetov and his production company, Bazelevs, set the bar for film a whole with ScreenLife. This involves stories told in real time through computer screens.
Synopsis: When a 20-something finds a cache of hidden files on his new laptop, he and his friends are unwittingly thrust into the depths of the dark web. They soon discover someone has been watching their every move and will go to unimaginable lengths to protect the dark web. (Universal Pictures)
Starring: Rebecca Rittenhouse, Betty Gabriel, and Chelsea Alden
Writer: Stephen Susco
Director: Stephen Susco
Rating: 14A (Canada)/R (United States)
Running Time: 88mins
Unfriended was a fun and unique, although fundamentally flawed and distractingly campy film but thankfully, the filmmakers have looked back on the mistakes they have made with that film and have created a sequel that is much different than its predecessor- and it’s for the best. With Unfriended: Dark Web, Director/Writer Stephen Susco creates an unflinchingly terrifying and realistic film that uses ScreenLife to its advantage, in the best way possible.
The story here is easily a large part of what makes this sequel so great. Whereas the original Unfriended used supernatural themes to develop it’s story, Dark Web uses a real kind of terror- the danger of the internet. The story feels so much more grounded and more realistic with these themes, although it was sometimes too much once the film got to its balls to the wall third act, make this thing about 20 times scarier. The fact that this is something that could plausibly happen in real life, elevating the tension even further, and creating true stakes that are extremely difficult to break.
Additionally, another significant improvement over the original is the characters. The first film was quite difficult to become invested in, as the characters were not forgivable with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. The reason for the awful things that happened to them was justified by their personalities and unlikable qualities. However, most of the main characters in this film were innocent and didn’t deserve to be put in such danger. The main character that makes a poor mistake that led to the events of the film, is also quite forgivable considering the well meaning and gesture with what he intended to do with the stolen computer. This, along with the tight story at hand, makes up for most of why the film is so unnerving in the first place. The cast here is incredible as well- the mostly unknown leads here not only do an incredible job, but the fact that they are relatively unknown definitely helps out with the tension as well.
If we are going to talk about an Unfriended movie, we have to talk about ScreenLife! The way Susco imbeds the computer screen into his original narrative, with no link to the original, might have made for an even better use than before. It creates an immersive quality that makes it feel as if you are there for game night playing along, and the POV you get is perfectly suited for this unique story.
As surprised as you may be, Unfriended 2 may end up being one of the best horror films of the year. Unique in story and execution, this is a film that will keep you on the edge of your seat, mainly due to the innovative style of filming and emotional attachment to the characters, unlike in the film’s predecessor.