Studio: WowNow Entertainment
Director: Anastase Liaros, Jill VI Gevargizian, Zach Lorkiewicz, Marc Roussel, Daniel B. Iske, Alessandro Frosali, Ramsey Attia
Producer: Nakia Secrest, Ryan Housknecht, Grace Hahn, Elliot Hornsby, Ron Basch, Shawn Watson, Cesar Sanguino, Simone Tan
Stars: Laurence R. Harvey, Tristan Risk, Dave Belden, Amber Calderon, Sarah Silverthorne, Mark Booker, Karrie Bauman, Candice Leask, Monet Lerner, Sean Noorani
Seven short stories tell terror tales involving murder, online voyeurism, reality TV, hunting humans, and a time paradox.
Not to be confused for the “Unfriended” sequel (review here) with the same name for its subtitle, “Dark Web” lassos seven entirely unrelated shorts into an anthology loosely themed around technological terrors. So instead of just one unremarkable horror film, viewers are treated to a varietal assortment of bite-sized blah masquerading as an interwoven microbudget movie.
To give some semblance of connectedness, “Dark Web” employs a framing story where a man waiting to kill a call girl and an online voyeur waiting to witness the murder apparently pass the time watching dark web videos. Forgetting how framing devices are meant to work however, “Dark Web” still has bookend pieces on either side.
The movie opens with “Make-Up Girl,” a 90-second segment where a blurry image of who-knows-what interrupts a YouTuber’s makeup tutorial and inexplicably causes her to bash her head against her computer screen. The short actually hides a progressive makeup effect really well, except that’s all this scene is: a setup for an effect with no real story behind it.
The same goes for “GETT3R” at the other end of the anthology. “GETT3R” is a two-minute piece where a woman using the titular Tinder-like app swipes through photos creepily taken inside her apartment before the mystery photographer/home intruder unsurprisingly ends her life. Again, all setup, no story.
It bears mentioning that the collective duration of these two shorts barely exceeds half the length of the end credits. When a movie devotes more time to scrolling text than to the shorts they are crediting, you know you have a content problem.
The first full short is “Blood,” which promptly throws the loose theme out the window by having nothing to do with technology of any kind. In it, a serial killer suffers from haunting visions of stubborn bloodstains culminating in a confrontation with a victim’s ghost. A photo in a locket seemingly holds the secret to the story. Unfortunately, the photo is so unclear as to who it depicts that I have no idea what meaning “Blood” ultimately wishes to impart.
Amongst the movie’s throwaway tales hides Marc Roussel’s genuine gem “Remote.” If you’re a fan of time paradox premises, this story of a mild-mannered man positioned to crack a 30-year-old cold case when his TV opens a window into 1978 will electrify all the right synapses. It’s a clever plot regrettably cut down by under-delivered acting. Beef up the script, recast with notable names, and “Remote” would be a memorable modern “Twilight Zone” episode.
“Dark Web” swiftly picks up old tricks by rolling into “Hunted,” an unnecessary riff on the “Most Dangerous Game” concept. Like “Blood,” “Hunted” has nothing to do with the internet or technology. It does open with people briefly using cellphones though. They also use the term “yolo.”
If you’re wondering why a movie copyrighted to 2018 would have such dated references, it should be added that “Dark Web” reaches as far back as 2008 to pull its pieces together. I’m all for indie filmmakers finding an outlet to make some change and reach an audience, but an anthology slapped together in this fashion always puts forth an impression of producers caring more about filling out a feature than polishing a fresh product.
“Snare” follows an abducted actress forced into solitary confinement by mysterious men in black masks and body armor. For ten minutes, we’re imprisoned alongside her, although it feels like ten hours due to the dull series of nonevents taking place during her captivity.
“Dark Web’s” big “get” marquee-wise is “The Human Centipede 2’s” Laurence R. Harvey in “Call Girl,” the wraparound that doesn’t actually wraparound. Director Jill Gevargizian makes a bizarre creative choice to cut to black screens with text boxes every time Harvey’s anonymous partner responds with typed messages. “Call Girl” also purposefully stutters on momentary freeze frames to simulate buffering glitches at frequent intervals. It’s a one-two punch of extremely distracting annoyances, particularly when these pauses break all the momentum of a frenetic finale.
“Dark Web” salvages a small scrap of entertainment value thanks entirely to “Remote.” But that 20-minute respite of imaginative intrigue isn’t nearly enough to save the entire movie. Furthermore, “Remote” can be freely found online, eliminating any requirement of having to see “Dark Web” to get to it.
Pressed for something positive to say about the anthology, I can only quip, the content runs just 66 minutes. Most boring movies waste a full ninety. “Dark Web” at least only throws away an hour.
Review Score: 35