Unfriended: Dark Web’s director Stephen Susco has opened up about making the follow-up to 2014’s hugely successful supernatural horror Unfriended, admitting that even though he adored the original his immediate instinct was to take the franchise into the unknown.
“I was approached by Blumhouse and Bazelevs about doing a sequel,” recalled Susco over the phone earlier this week. “They were trying to find right angle on it. I was a huge fan of the original film.”
“It was so singular, it just kind of created a new spoke in the wheel of horror. My first instinct was to run in the opposite direction of what the first film did. I didn’t want my first movie to be in the shadow of something that worked really effectively.”
“So I was like, ‘Would you be cool if the franchise was the format? And I kind of went in a different direction?’ So I used that as a metric.”
“I was like, ‘I’d like to do something that doesn’t have ghosts in it. I would like to do something where all of the violence happens off screen rather than on. Where you like all of the characters rather than hate them.’ So I just tried to invert everything.”
As a result, “Dark Web” is well and truly a stand-alone movie, with completely new characters led by Matias (Colin Woodell), who after stealing a laptop soon finds a number of disturbing, secret files on it, which immediately puts him and his friends, who have gathered to talk on Skype, in danger.
But while you don’t need to have seen “Unfriended” to appreciate and get caught up in “Dark Web,” Susco was still intent on tapping into the “magic” of the original.
“‘Unfriended’ had this real magic to it. Not just because of the experimental nature of the narrative and the unfamiliar aspect of that.”
“But also because of how familiar it was. We all use computers at that level, so our ability to watch a movie on a computer screen and intuit things that other films wouldn’t be able to pull off was certainly intriguing.”
“I was also impressed at how the original film was able to just sort of be wildly entertaining and have this very, very fun, breezy, horrifying rollercoaster ride, that was punctuated with these grotesque deaths.”
“At the same time, without being didactic, it really sent you away with a deeper awareness of cyberbullying and the rise of sociopathy amongst teenagers. It was really a story that had teeth. It was this story that had these layers to it and I was impressed by it.”
“So it was important to find a different way to use this narrative form and invert it and run in the opposite direction and make sure that this movie also explored something related to that technology.”
“But Nelson Greaves and the director and the producers really covered the teenage experience, and what cyber-bullying was like, and the facade of social media that can extend to friendships.”
“And they used that movie as a sunlight movie to really show that these friendships really aren’t really real and that people are pretty awful to each other. Which again was wildly entertaining.”
“I really just wanted to find something to turn the optics onto and for me the fact that we all swim around on the surface of this ocean without being cognizant of what lurks below it seemed like a good angle.”
“I think I pitched it as ‘Jaws’ on the Internet. Which sounds trite, but sort of makes sense.”
You can judge for yourself whether “Unfriended: Dark Web” is worthy of such a label when it is released on July 20.