Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Den: Unfriended Before Unfriended

Runtime: 81 minutes
Release Date: March 14, 2014
Rating: R
Director: Zachary Donahue

Elizabeth is a young woman in college or graduate school, we never learn which, who uses the social networking site The Den to meet people. She presents an idea to a group of people and learns that she received a grant that will let her study the habits of people using the site. Though she does spend a lot of time on The Den, she also makes time to talk with her boyfriend, her sister, and some other people online too.

While celebrating with her best friend, they hop online and use like the site. Like Chatroulette (which I'm sure I spelled wrong), you use your webcam to talk to people and can skip those you don't like. Her friend comes across a woman using the chat feature with a photo of herself, thinks the girl is boring, and skips her. Elizabeth later comes across the woman on her own and has a short conversation with her that ends with the woman asking if they can be friends.

After going to sleep one night, she wakes to find her webcam on and her logged into the site, which she thinks is odd. When her boyfriend comes over to spend the night before heading off on a work trip, her camera records him going down on her and sends it out to everyone on her email list, which leads to her losing her grant. While in the middle of a chat with her boyfriend on his trip, the camera goes fuzzy and he disappears, though we can see that someone actually grabbed him from behind.

Elizabeth comes across the same woman as before, but this time, the woman's webcam comes on. It shows her tied to a chair with duct tape on her mouth. As she watches, a man grabs the woman, pushes her down onto a table, and slits her neck. Elizabeth immediately calls the police, who believe it looks real but are helpless to do anything. As someone keeps cyber stalking her and attacking her friends, Elizabeth must attempt to figure out who is behind everything.

When I wrote a review of Unfriended, I think I said something along the lines of how surprised I was that no one did that before. Guess I was wrong because it seems like The Den came out first. The Den takes place entirely online and only lets us see what happens on computer screens. It's actually pretty interesting to see her talk with someone riding his bike around NYC and making friends with people just hanging out, like you would in real life.

As I watched the film though, I kept thinking that it had to be a prank. As in, Elizabeth would get through everything and find out that her guy friend or her boyfriend did it all to poke fun at the fact that she spent all her time online. Needless to say, that did not happen. The ending of The Den is far from the happy ending that you might want to expect, especially after getting to know Elizabeth so well.

I actually enjoyed The Den quite a bit and found that it was more interesting and entertaining than Unfriended and did a better job of telling a story through computer cameras.

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