Matias (Colin Woodell) had trouble keeping up with his friends with his ancient laptop, so has obtained a new one that will operate far faster and enable video conferencing and easy chatting online. Tonight he has decided to try it out for his friends' game night, where they pass the time playing word games over the net, though before he does that there's the matter of appeasing his girlfriend Amaya (Stephanie Nogueras). She is in the huff with him after he failed to show up for a sign language class she had enlisted him in so they could communicate better, Amaya being deaf herself, but as Matias tries to pour oil on troubled waters he keeps getting unsolicited messages...
Unfriended in 2014 was not the first film to use the gimmick of having its story captured on the screen of a computer - Open Windows possibly beat it to the punch - but it inspired a bunch of other horrors and thrillers to do the same thing, and since it made its money back many times over it was no surprise Blumhouse, the horror studio du jour, ordered a follow-up. Originally this was intended to carry on from the events in the first movie, but as production moved on that idea was abandoned to make a standalone effort which rejected the previous supernatural menace of a vengeful spirit infecting the technology of her tormentors to have a more real-world threat.
Although this played out as a basic thriller with horror overtones, particularly as it progressed to its denouement, there may have been a word of warning sounded by director and screenwriter Stephen Susco. This may have been as blunt as, "Watch yourself online, because anyone can hunt you down and try to murder you if you're not careful", which did not happen that often, but by implementing the more extreme forms of consequences for its characters, he was observing there but for the grace of God goes, well, any of us. With most of what we appreciated about our online presence down to how much personal information we shared, it could be a sobering watch.
Obviously we would be warned about the so-called "dark web" of the title and how we should not stray too far off the path of the information superhighway as if each and every one of us was a Little Red Riding Hood at risk of being preyed upon by Big Bad Wolves, it was part of basic internet security, but the younger members of the online world were often painted as naïve and prone to giving too much of themselves away, from their location to anything as out there as nude pictures of themselves. The fear of getting shamed in the internet landscape should really have been more prevalent than it was, and it was too frequently only when it all went horribly wrong for you that it would hit home that you had overdone it, shared the wrong thing, or simply signed up for something that exposed you.
So all that was at the heart of Unfriended: Dark Web, but there was more at that core too: this was essentially a slasher flick. By this stage, you might have expected there was nothing more to be done with that somewhat played out subgenre of horror, but Susco, as before, proved there was life in the old dog yet as he worked out how to place his cast of characters in peril, all seen in windows on a screen as their messages appeared alongside them. There remained the basics of a series of gruesome deaths and the audience wondering how everyone was going to reach their demise, but you were not conventionally appreciating how an old-fashioned concept was being revitalised by making it look like the typical evening online for many of the viewers. You may be cheered by the wider representation in the makeup of those potential victims, though bear in mind they were all headed for some pretty horrible fates if the bad guys of a torture and snuff ring had their way, so maybe not that progressive, but this was a deceptively well-crafted shocker even if you wouldn't want to see every new horror presented this way.