Director: Zachary Donohue
Running Time: 1 hour, 21 minutes
Elizabeth Benton (Melanie Papalia) has just received a grant for a research project about online video chatting. She plans to record all of her video chat interactions for the next few months so she can study the interactions of all the people she encounters online. Things go to hell when she believes she witnesses a murder during one of these online video chats, and now, she and her friends seem to be the targets of some crazy killer from the internet.
"The Den" is directed by Zachary Donohue, who also wrote the screenplay along with Lauren Thompson. This is currently the one and only feature film he has directed. It stars Melanie Papalia, who plays Elizabeth Benton, a research student studying the habits of random people who use video chat services. The title "The Den" refers to the video chat program used by the characters in this film. At first, Elizabeth meets a couple of cool people online, but it's mostly perverts showing their penises or kids looking to screw around and cuss at adults. After a few times weeks, Elizabeth begins chatting on The Den with someone behind the photo of a very pretty girl, but this person never uses a webcam. This all changes one day when the picture of this woman suddenly changes to video, and with Elizabeth watching, she witnesses her murder. All of the events after this horrifying day are soon set to destroy her.
This entire film takes place on the webcams of one type of device or another, be they the ones on laptops, phones, or hidden spy cameras. The movie starts out with a pretty solid concept, which seemed to be at least somewhat influential on the surprisingly not terrible "Unfriended" from 2015. Someone witnesses a murder online, and in turn, becomes a target of some random internet person's rage. Unfortunately, director Zachary Donohue fails to build tension throughout the rest of the film. It has fleeting moments of intensity and the occasional grizzly imagery, but the vast majority of the time, we are simply watching Elizabeth fart around on her computer and doing innocuous things around her house. That being said, there are a few worthwhile instances that happen in the first two acts when Elizabeth is mostly isolated to her home and the film is primarily taking place on her monitor. By the time the third act rolls around, "The Den" winds up devolving into the pretty standard found-footage slasher flick with a less than worthy ending.
Donohue and co. seem to spend a whole lot of time building a mystery in "The Den," but it isn't willing to give viewers a satisfying or even plausible answer. The only gratifying build-up we get comes from the first portion of the film, but anything worthwhile from the beginning is completely undone by the time we get to the end of it all. We could think of ten other more fulfilling endings to what could have been a solid horror mystery, but the ball really gets after the first murder occurs. There are a few pretty gruesome, bloody, and shocking scenes for horror fans, but this initially good concept just doesn't deliver the way it could have.
My Rating: 5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 78%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.
One year ago, we were being scared by: "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre"
Two years ago, we were being scared by: "Bad Milo"
Three years ago, we were being scared by: "Evilspeak"