Director: Zachary Donohue
Starring: Melanie Papalia, David Schlachtenhaufen and Adam Shapiro
Duration: 81 minutes
Well, I’ve read an eclectic mix of amazing reviews to downright shoddy reviews about this film, so I’ve kind of just not bothered watching it as soon as I should have. But alas, it was finally the right time to find out what truth the reviews about The Den hold. I know many people aren’t into the whole found footage thing, but honestly, they really make me feel like I’m there. For me, that just makes the entire endeavour more pulse racing. However, the found footage aspect is given a slightly different twist, so you haters might, just might, enjoy it.
We follow Elizabeth, a University student studying social media, who plans on engaging with as many different people online for her dissertation. The site she uses to interact is called The Den and is similar to the well-known ChatRoulette. You know you’ve been on there. You know it wasn’t pretty. It seems there isn’t the abundance of distinct individuals that Elizabeth was hoping for and she soon begins to feel the project is slipping away. That is until she witnesses the harsh murder of a young girl whom she previously and briefly spoke with. Events quickly spiral into something seriously sinister as she frantically tries to find out the truth.
The online world can be a dark dungeon full of unthinkable characters, and The Den is a big reminder that you never really know who you’re talking to. We watch through Elizabeth’s computer and phone, so it almost feels as if you’re on the computer. It’s a strange viewing experience to begin with, but it creates this realistic feel, especially for obsessed and frequent Internet users such as myself. An ultimate fear of mine is being on facetime or webcam and being told that there’s something behind you, or spotting it in the little picture. Instant dread. The shots can be iffy at times and you could argue the point of why would she film that, but I’d rather that than a blank screen. It pushes realism with the fact it feels like it’s happening real time on your computer.
The overall story was interesting and kept you on your toes with a few twists and some very tense scenes. There were a fair few “He’s behind you!” moments, but those are often the ones that really get you anxious, because you know they’re oblivious. Every character had quite a well fleshed out personality, which definitely helps to push the film in the right direction. As The Den nears the end, the violence takes a gruesome leap forwards and we begin to realise that the current horror is not a small scale something.
The unknown perpetrators not only use violence, but they expertly hack Elizabeth’s computer and play games with her. No, I’m not on about words with friends or candy crush. They set her webcam to record whilst her boyfriend is getting his munch on – so always remember to shut the screen down kids! Nothing is more horrific than that, until you find out it was sent to the top cats that funded your social project. That’s having a bad day.
Criticised for over exaggerating on the perils of the Internet, I disagree as growing up in the digital age leaves us continuously trusting anonymous people online. We share a staggering amount of information about ourselves, without really thinking of the complications that could ever arise from it. It may not be your conventional horror, and possibly it does push the reality a tad, but it makes it fucking scary, and that’s the point.
After watching this, I considered how many of you lovely lot could be serial killers, but I’m fairly convinced there’s not one amongst you. Nether the less, they could possibly show this in schools and make the kids shit themselves with fear of Twitter users without profile pictures or Instagram accounts with no selfless. The Den is a fresh, captivating film for those of you who find the subgenre of found footage compelling and chilling.
Verdict: 4 out of 5