The Den: Film Review

The Den Film Still - H 2014
Courtesy of PR

The Den Film Still - H 2014

Zach Donohue's debut feature ingeniously uses only computer images to tell its tale.

A young woman studying the habits of video-chat site users witnesses a murder in this found-footage horror film.

A Rear Window for the Internet generation, The Den is a horror film that manages to find a clever new way to employ the increasingly tired found-footage format. Zach Donohue’s debut feature concerns a young woman who witnesses a gruesome murder, which may or may not be real, online. It’s a measure of our increasing dependence on being perpetually technologically connected that despite its plethora of scares, the film’s most truly horrific moment involves a hard drive being erased.

Ingenious recounted entirely via the images on a computer screen, the story involves Elizabeth (Melanie Papalia), a graduate student who’s had the good fortune to receive a grant to study the habits of the users of a Chatroulette-style website dubbed The Den. Sitting at home and randomly flipping through its offerings, she comes upon the usual mélange of disreputable types ranging from Nigerian scammers—“Does this ever work?” she enquires after he makes his absurd pitch—to a plethora of men delightedly exposing themselves.

That is, until she happens upon the horrific scene of a young woman being killed in front of her webcam. Our heroine naturally attempts to get the police involved, to no avail, and turns to help from her boyfriend Damien (David Schlachtenhaufen) and tech-savvy best friend Max (Adam Shapiro). It soon becomes apparent that the killer is on to his witness, as he hacks into her computer and proceeds to mess with her life in various ways, including forwarding a homemade sex tape to her disgruntled supervisor.

The plot, which eventually degenerates into familiar horror film tropes, is less interesting than the film’s formal device of relating it entirely via Skype, webcams, surveillance cameras, etc., including moving cursors, as seen on the main character’s laptop. This is the rare film that would actually seem even creepier watched from home on your computer, preferably alone to enhance its voyeuristic effect.

(IFC Midnight)

Production: Cliffbrook Films

Cast: Melanie Papalia, David Schlachtenhaufen, Adam Shapiro, Anna Margaret Hollyman, Matt Riedy

Director: Zach Donohue

Screenwriters: Lauren Thompson, Zach Donohue

Producers: Dan Clifton, David Brooks

Executive producers: Paul Brooks, James Atherton, Jan Pace

Director of photography: Bernard Hunt

Editor: Joseph Pettinati

Production designer: Vivian Quaid

Composer: Evan Goldman

Rated R, 81 min.