SXSW Review: ‘Unfriended: Dark Web’ World Premiere

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Unfriended Dark Web SXSW
Credit: Kevin Stewart

Leading up to the 2018 SXSW Conference and Festivals, an untitled film produced by Jason Blum (of the powerhouse horror production company Blumhouse) was added to the world premieres lineup. After much anticipation and speculation, it was revealed that Untitled Blumhouse-Bazelevs Film was in fact Unfriended: Dark Web, the sequel to the 2014 film Unfriended.

Written and directed by Stephen Susco, the film is a stand-alone sequel to the first, which was directed by Levan Gabriadze. While Unfriended went the supernatural route and told the story of friends getting haunted by a spirit using technology, Unfriended: Dark Web leaves that element out. The story follows Matias (Colin Woodell), his girlfriend, and friends after he gets his hands on a laptop that hides secrets from the dark web, drawing the attention of a circle of psychopaths.

During a night of friendly card games via Skype, Matias, Damon (Andrew Lees), Nari (Betty Gabriel), Serena (Rebecca Rittenhouse), Aj (Connor Del Rio), and Lexx (Savira Windyani) all joke and talk while we see Matias juggle between his friends, trying to fix a falling-out he had with his deaf girlfriend, Amaya (Stephanie Nogueras), and discovering files that he quickly regrets discovering. Like the first film, Unfriended: Dark Web is told only on computer and phone screens and centered around social media and technology.

While the content that Unfriended: Dark Web deals with is indeed dark, it never feels quite as heavy as it should on-screen. Most of the violence is either suggested or shown just off-screen, which felt a bit watered down. What really pulls it all together, however, and ups the intensity, are the performances given by Colin Woodell and Andrew Lees. The performances across the board were better than the first film (thankfully), but Woodell and Lees carried it quite a bit.

Although it is not a supernatural story line, viewers still have to suspend disbelief as you watch some way too impressive techniques on behalf of the hackers. That aside, it truly looked like it was taking place on a laptop, Skype, and social media. While this isn’t anything groundbreaking with films like the first Unfriended and The Den in existence, it was still well done. Similarly, the plot itself wasn’t original (again, The Den), but Unfriended: Dark Web puts it own spin on it and finds its rhythm nicely and quickly.

Self-proclaimed “hardcore horror fans” may not appreciate the film, however I found it to be a fun watch that should appeal to the mainstream. If you were like me and really (really) disliked the first film, Unfriended: Dark Web may just win you over. And if you enjoyed the first, you should have no problems enjoying this one.

Check out our 2018 SXSW coverage here!


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