WARNING: THIS BLOG CONTAINS BODYCOUNT. HIGH RISK OF SPOILERS. ENTER IF YOU DARE.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Voyeur Sites Gone Deadly: The Den (2014)

The Den (2014)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Melanie Papalia, David Schlachtenhaufen, Matt Riedy

Our modern times cannot exist without the internet. It revolutionized the way we live our lives, bringing new ways to reach people, both familiar and new, making the world we dwell in a lot smaller and more accessible. This, of course, has a downside and The Den cleverly tackles the dark corners as a bloody and creepy cautionary tale on issues such as hacking, cyberbullying, exhibitionism and other known cybercrimes.

Yes, I know Smiley did this already, but The Den has something the other film doesn't: Results.

The movie centers on Elizabeth Benton (Smiley's own Melanie Papalia. Typecast?), who's doing a funded research on online activity by staying active on a Chatroulette webcam website called "The Den", hoping to find more interesting personalities other than the usual flashers, prankers and the occassional weirdos.

Things suddenly goes strange for Elizabeth when she encounters a random chat showing no webcam footage but an active chatter on the other end. What started as a simple conversation soon escalates to an alarming situation when the user suddenly shows her a video of what appears to be a real murder. Obviously freaked out, Liz contacts the police but they're quick to dismiss it as a prank, but as her friends and family starts to disappear, attacked or even murdered, Liz knew better and soon finds herself a target of a maniac hellbent on killing her.

The Den could have been another stereotyped found footage/ mockumentary horror flick where we put ourselves to the shoes of whoever's holding a camera, but in an creatively new gimmick we are instead treated with an altogether different voyeuristic take of seeing the action unfolds through somebody's desktop, including online chats, emails and other assorted online accessories only a technogeek would understand and appreciate. It's not too exciting, but it is refreshing after all those handheld camcorder footages where you kept wondering to why they still continue to film long after seeing their friends get ripped apart. At least with a (hacked) desktop, there is a reason why we are seeing all this, and it's not too pretty.

Now, the slasher part in this film is pretty well handled as they are bloodily brutal and creepy. Though there's still some issues regarding the believability of some scenarios (someone hacking into a computer to turn it on. Is that even possible or am I just living under my rock too long?), the sense of helplessness and uncertainty glooms over the film is done pretty nicely in a sense that it taps into the real life dangers of chatting with strangers over the web and finding yourself in a predicament that is out of your control but in theirs.

The death toll is decent and there are some effective home invasion stalkings as the film switches to cameras either held or worn by the attacker, one thing I'm glad for as limiting to just Liz's point of view may feel too clich√©d and just kicks the film back to the "Why are you still filming this?" argument. 

The Den doesn't try to be anything new but it knows its concept by heart. The drawback I see here is that the twist wasn't as intense and thrilling as the majority of the film, devolving into a bloody, yet overly familiar backdrop that raises more questions than answers. I don't mind really, but it's been done with so many times it just wouldn't beat a dead heart back to life.

Still, not too disappointed, the film is still entertaining and scary from beginning to end and I really recommend seeing this film through a desktop for added experience, (The movie was released mostly via VOD) not too shabby of a suggestion if I may say so myself.

Bodycount:
1 female nearly beheaded with a hunting knife
1 female found covered in cuts, bled to death
1 male axed on the face
1 male found murdered with his body tied in chains
1 male knifed to death
1 male smothered with a plastic sheet
1 male murdered offcamera
1 male strangled with a length of chain
1 female shot on the head
Total: 9

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