Time to start sticking blu tac over your webcam…
Back in 2015 I wrote that Unfriended was a solid entry in the genre of cyber horror (a name I invented. It hasn’t caught on…) but that it would take a better film to break the genre. Whilst The Den isn’t that film, it is definitely a step in the right direction. Cyber horror differs slightly from found footage as it takes place almost entirely through computer screens (see also Cyberbully). This helps to strike a note of recognition in what is truly an internet obsessed society but when done badly can also stretch the realms of believability.
My constant bugbear with both found footage and cyber horror is the nagging question of ‘why would you be filming this?’. As this question has constantly been ignored from the genres explosive beginnings with Blair Witch Project right through to the present day, I think it is time to start filing it alongside ‘people splitting up’ and ‘not turning lights on’ in the unexplained horror trope hall of infamy.
Cyber horror is interesting because it captures the current zeitgeist of people being afraid of the internet, much in the same way all those films about devil worshipping cults did back in the 80’s. The difference is that whilst the cult thing was almost entirely invented by the media, the horrors of the internet are both real and incredibly disturbing.
Another obvious starting point for all horror movies is the unknown. The Dark Web represents something that is both unknowable and fucking frightening and whilst there is a great horror movie to be made about it, The Den isn’t quite it. Instead, The Den takes from a number of horrors, most notably Saw and Hostel, to create something not quite as good as the sum of its parts. Whilst the concept is solid, the acting is fine and the ending is satisfying, The Den still feels slightly like a missed opportunity.