Matias (Colin Woodell, Unsane, The Purge TV series) has a fancy new computer, and the first thing he does is contact his girlfriend Amaya and show off the sign language app he got to help communicate better with her. She blows him off, so he engages in Skype game night with their friends, engaged couple Nari (Betty Gabriel) and Serena (Rebecca Rittenhouse, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood)–and yes, they are adorable,
DJ Lexx, paranoid activist A.J., and British guy Damon (he doesn’t have much character development aside from his country of origin). Meanwhile, Matias finds out that the laptop he “bought on Craigslist” (actually stole from the lost and found box from work) belongs to Charon IV, a kidnapper and snuff filmmaker for hire on the dark web. Charon is not too keen about an interloper using his laptop, so he ensnares Matias and his friends in a deadly game.
It was written by Stephen Susco, who penned The Grudge, The Grudge 2, and the Lucky McKee-directed Red. This is his directorial debut, produced by Blumhouse. The filming is done entirely by webcam, as with the original movie, which I critiqued very grumpily here:
I found myself liking this one almost right away. Possibly because they didn’t stick to the person-of-color-dies-first trope. Or because Betty Gabriel. Or the diverse characters, whose ethnicities include Black, Indonesian, and Puertorriqueña. I’m also impressed that Stephanie Nogueras, who plays Amaya, is deaf in real life; it’s rare that filmmakers actually bother hiring someone who is genuinely differently abled.
This one is less disturbing than the first in terms of methods of deaths (no hands in blenders), but I didn’t give a shit about the characters in the original, so in this one the deaths are actually more agonizing. There’s one scene when Matias is afraid of losing Amaya, and he’s frantically signing to her in his crappy ASL, and she can’t understand him, and it’s pretty intense. Also, the action is not supernatural, which, if you skipped the link I put up there, was much of the base of my animosity, because I feel that it’s very hard to make ghosts that use technology anything but ridiculous (except The Ring). This movie feels pretty realistic, actually, because of how topical it is (unlike The Ring). For example, one character gets SWATted–a SWAT team is called to his house after the killer uses recordings of his voice to make a terrorist threat.
Of course the first movie meant to do the same, and it does make some good points about cyber-bullying, but the effect is much diminished by the wackiness. GHOSTS DO NOT MAKE MEMES! Dark Web really hits home about what people are capable of online. Charon frames the main characters (*NOT a spoiler—obvi this killer isn’t dumb enough to lose such an important piece of equipment in a coffee shop) entirely by using their online activity against them. It’s an extreme case of identity theft. He also watches and records them, including an intimate scene between Nari and Serena from before they start the game night, when they discuss how to tell everyone they’re engaged and how their families feel about it.
Good horror makes you paranoid that what’s on the screen can happen to you–hence, it is scary. I am nowhere near concerned that a Facebook-savvy ghost is going to haunt me and my friends, but I might be moved to be a little warier about identity theft or the concept that it’s possible to watch people without their knowledge. (Then again, what I know about hacking into computers you could put in your pocket; it might all be bullshit.) Anywho, check it out if you’re in the mood for hi-tech hijinks, found footage style.