Written Review: The Den
If you used to frequent chat roulette, then this movie is for you. This film follows the POV of a young woman who is doing a research project on the people who use a video chat website called “The Den” and attempting to chat with as many people as possible because of…reasons. Labeled a found-footage film, the whole movie is seen through the webcam of the main character, Elizabeth’s laptop. (Also at times, her cellphone camera.) At one point she chats with a girl who appears to have a broken webcam, but then when her webcam comes back on, Elizabeth witnesses the girl’s murder through the video chat before it cuts off. The film follows her attempting to get help from the police while being stalked by the killers from the video chat. So let’s dive right in.
This film is Zachary Donohue’s feature film and directorial debut, and I must say, it is well done for a 2013 film focusing on the dangers of people lurking in the depths of the internet, and how easy it is to access communication with these people. A poignant part of the film is when Elizabeth chooses to have access to everyone who is on The Den, despite a warning given of what she might see or hear while using the chat with no filters and no censorship. This poor girl stumbles upon a group of kidnappers and murderers who track you down virtually, target those closest to you, kill them, and then kidnap you and kill you. All of it is recorded via video chat, and the cycle continues. Elizabeth just hit a spot of bad luck that ended in her sudden and very brutal demise. The entire time you are watching her deal with trying to escape these men, you come to a very important realization (or at least I hope you do) which is that she is not special. She is not chosen because of her age, how she looks, or because she’s doing a research study. She is chosen at random. This is all just extreme…trolling, for lack of a better word.
The ending to this film is absolutely fantastic. The viewer is actually following a “narrative” of Elizabeth once she logs into The Den for the first time up until her death. The user is shown looking at other narratives available, which is basically just watching some person video chat, get stalked by this underground group of people, get kidnapped, then murdered. He is putting in his credit card information in order to watch a new one, but as he’s beginning the video, his young son walks in – to which he closes his laptop and credits roll.
What has happened to Elizabeth and all the others who get killed is merely entertainment for the paying customers. Instead of porn, though, its live kidnapping and murder. And trust me, there are obviously many many people in this world who are that fucked up that they’ll pay to see it.
A small note on the actual group of killers. These individuals are internet users, and when you are an internet user, you have your own identity or persona which is different to who you are in reality. These men are cops and lawyers and they do this because it’s a side hustle. This is a way to make extra income. For example, towards the end of the film when Elizabeth is being watched by the cops, one of them is part of the group. You can trust no one, not even the cops. The way they kill the people via the video chat is extremely brutal. The first girl gets her throat cut almost immediately after the video begins, and when Elizabeth is simply shot in the head, the feeling of the death is so final. This is killing just to kill. For them this is a job, and so their actions are free from all emotions or empathy. This is why they are pretty well organized, with their own confine in a basement in the middle of the desert.
Be wary of the desert, people go missing all the time…
Not too much to discuss regarding the performance since you just really see Elizabeth interact a small amount with a few people. It’s mostly her talking to people for a few seconds, barely creating any meaningful connection. However, when the shit starts to hit the fan and she sees the girl get killed, she can’t unsee it. She’s pretty fucked up for life after that, but you have to understand, she chose to see absolutely ANYTHING that the video chat had to offer. Sure, she expected a ton of nudity, but she didn’t expect a severed jugular. Once all of us as humans who use the internet open ourselves up to the idea that we may possibly see someone get killed, we’ll all be less traumatized when we log into Facebook. We can’t keep ourselves from viewing horrible things if we accept the viewing of everything. Now that “performance crime” is more and more normalized, we can’t hide from the violence forever while it’s right in our faces as we scroll through our wall.
This type of found footage is either seen as lame and underwhelming, or pretty brilliant. I, myself, believe that it’s pretty brilliant. It is actually pretty dangerous not to have that little black circle of a webcam covered when it’s not in use. Just because the red record light isn’t on, doesn’t mean that someone can’t see you through the other end. But, where is that other end? Spooky….
As you watch the film, you see Elizabeth and all the others on video through the eyes of the predators. That’s why a lot of the time they seem to not even realize they are being seen through the video camera because they don’t have it set to record. They are still being watched by anyone who has access to the digital data of the camera itself, wether it be from a laptop, desktop, or smartphone.
A nice detail from Elizabeth’s kidnapping is another action a troll would probably take. She wakes up with a GoPro drilled into her head. Now, don’t ask me if that’s realistic or not, but the mere message of “You like watching videos and taking videos? How about we drill a fucking camera to your forehead so you take videos no matter what?”
Finally, the place she is kept is terrifying. Seeing it through the GoPro camera as she’s running through a dark and eerily open basement/fortress is unsettling. Especially that wonderful scene when she stops in a room with a light on, and the room is just floor to ceiling tile and covered in blood. It looks like there was a blood explosion in there. No body, just a light powered by a generator. It’d scare even the likes of me. Last thing, that damn alarm that goes off to alert people that she’s escaping is scary. Very scary.
This is realistic as fuck. One detail I wanted to point out that is far too realistic is the Russian roulette video she sees. It looks as if there’s a camera attached to the gun, and after two shots, the third person to take the gun dies, while everyone around the table laughs. The girl who shot herself begins to laugh too because it’s a very well thought out, well executed prank. A prank done to simply troll the one watching, to troll them in a fucked up way, I mean.
Another detail is how easy it is for the kidnappers/killers to manipulate Elizabeth’s friends and family members into thinking they’re chatting with her when really they hacked her. They learn how she chats with them, and by talking to them via her “typing voice” they are able to lure them to her place and kill them, too.
So, a word to the wise. No matter how internet savvy you are, be very careful with online chat groups or video chatting. There are people who use these groups and forums to do one thing: find people for cruel purposes. And please, cover the fucking webcam. There’s always a post it note on mine at all times. When my computer is not in use I have it closed. If you want to become even more paranoid about the internet and who is watching, watch this video about how easy it is for people to see through your webcam when it’s not covered.
I gave this one an Awww Yeah that fucked me up. It did the first time I watched it, and watching it again I forgot how great it was.
Thanks for reading, peace out!
*sorry, couldn’t find a gif from the film* sad face