UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB is the sequel to the 2014 film Unfriended that all takes place through a Skype group chat. This time around the supernatural and bullying themes are gone and replaced with the real-life horrors of the darkest corners of the internet.
I sat down with writer/director Stephen Susco and asked him why he chose to take a drastically different direction from the first film. “When I was approached with making a sequel I didn’t want to redo what the first movie did so I asked them would you be willing to consider the franchise as the format, not the story? And I wanted to do the opposite of the original film, there won’t be any ghosts in it, the film will be all set in the real world. I also wanted the film to have characters that you actually like instead of ones you hate and cheer for when they eventually die. The team at Blumhouse said let’s see what you come up with and when I pitched my idea, I pitched it as Jaws on the internet. I think that’s how society is living these days, we all just threw our lives on social media, not paying attention to those who are monetizing off of it, not paying attention to those who can hack and steal our information. We blindly swim through dangerous waters without thinking about what we are swimming in.”
Susco also mentioned that in order for the film to work the cast had to come across as authentic as possible. I also sat down with some of the cast of the film which included Rebecca Rittenhouse, Betty Gabriel, Colin Woodell, and Stephanie Nogueras where we discussed what the audition process was like. They did not know they were auditioning for an Unfriended sequel until after doing chemistry screen-tests with some of the other actors. Surprisingly, there was not a chemistry screen-test between Betty and Rebecca, who play the only characters sharing a webcam throughout most of the film. When Stephanie found out that she got the part she was driving and had to pull over because she was so excited.
UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB takes place all through Skype so I wanted to know what that experience was like to film. The cast explained that each of them was in different rooms on a laptop and GoPro cameras were attached to each laptop and everyone’s camera feed was streaming on each laptop. In order to hear each other, and the director, they used earpieces.
As you can imagine there were several challenges in making a film in such an unconventional way. Colin explained that since they were doing 40 minute takes, he had to mentally prepare himself to go from calm to crazy in a gradual and believable way. Stephanie, who just like her character in the film is deaf, added that since she was not part of the “Group Chat” she had to rely on an interpreter to know when they were filming or not. Even though the cast followed the script and all the story beats, a fair amount of the film was improvised and Susco states that the final version of the movie is a decent blend of both, as a lot was cut out of the final version because the first cut came in at 3 hours long.
Along with exploring the real-life dangers of the internet and the potential consequences of exposing so much of your personal life on social media, the film also takes a look at some of the frustrations that deaf people have to deal with when it comes to personal relationships, which is a very interesting topic that is rarely discussed. I also thought the film did a great job keeping everything as reality-based as possible by making the events happen in real-time which allowed for a more believable touch. Overall, I really enjoyed this new form of storytelling as it allowed me to be hooked from the very beginning. When the film ended I was left wanting more, but that’s not always a bad thing! UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB opens nationwide July 20th.