Horror sequel unfolds on a computer screen but trades its plausibility for cheap scares

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One of those thrillers that's effective until it's not, "Unfriended: Dark Web" takes a compelling premise and taut execution and tosses them out the window by not knowing how to pull off its finish.  

But for a good portion of its running time, this paranoid horror-tech exercise works surprisingly well. 

Matias (Colin Woodell) logs onto his new laptop to meet up with his friends online. It's game night, and they're all going to play Cards Against Humanity over a Skype call, because getting together in person is so 2000s. 

Like the previous "Unfriended" and 2014's "Open Windows" (as well as the forthcoming "Searching"), "Dark Web" is part of the micro-genre of movies that unfolds entirely on a computer screen. The action takes place all in windows, which limits its possibilities, but writer-director Stephen Susco uses those limitations to his advantage and exploits the paranoia of hackers and the fear of privacy invasion in skillful ways. 

It loses its way once it wades into the waters of the "dark web" — those deep, murky corners of the internet most of us have only heard about — and fashions a world where serial killers trade murder for bitcoin. No doubt there are some shady online types out there, but the idea that they roam the real world with digitally encrypted cloaks which mask them from webcams turns this thriller from scary to silly. 

For a while, however, it does its job, and Susco makes even the dulcet tones of a Skype alert sound menacing. Beyond that, it has no message to offer other than don't mess with the dark web. Sage advice, sure, but it's not enough reason to log onto this "Dark Web." 

agraham@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2284

@grahamorama

'Unfriended: Dark Web'

GRADE: C

Rated R for some disturbing violence, language and sexual references

Running time: 88 minutes

 

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