The coming weekend at the movie theater appeared to be like any other normal weekend. Denzel had a movie coming out, Mamma Mia! was going again, and there was a horror movie set to be released — Unfriended: Dark Web, a sequel to the 2014 film Unfriended. Totally par for the course. But then, last Friday, word leaked that two versions of Unfriended: Dark Web with different endings were being sent out for theaters to screen.
In a really weird turn of events, Unfriended: Dark Web will have not one but two separate endings in theaters. pic.twitter.com/jqaqHmqYAZ— rob trench (@robtrench) July 13, 2018
What’s more, there was no clear plan in place for how these versions of the movie would be shown. It would be a crapshoot — you’d go to the theater not knowing which ending you’d see. And if you were hoping to see both endings, well, good luck — there was no way to guarantee that you were paying for Ending A or Ending B. For most of the movie’s runtime, everything would appear the same — a story about a guy named Matias (Colin Woodell), his five friends, and his girlfriend (Stephanie Nogueras) who get caught up in a cyber cat-and-mouse game involving hackers, snuff films, and a lot of video chats — but then in the final act, plotlines would begin to deviate. Or maybe they wouldn’t — maybe you’d just see the same ending again.
With that in mind, The Ringer sent out two intrepid viewers, Austin Elias-de Jesus and Kenrick Cai, on Unfriended: Dark Web’s opening night with the goal of seeing both of the movie’s endings. It mostly went well — though the mission may have scarred them (and forced them to spend too much time in a Regal Cinemas). Below, Elias-de Jesus and Cai divulged their thoughts and experiences with the Dark Web.
1. Please explain Ending A of Unfriended: Dark Web as thoroughly as possible.
Kenrick Cai: You know how in horror movies, the “let’s split up” trope never ends up well? Unfriended: Dark Web is one of the few films where that cliché doesn’t ring true, but only because everyone was going to get killed no matter what. So Matias’s decision to leave his apartment to get his girlfriend — effectively splitting up with his friend Damon — ends up, as we all could have predicted, poorly. He gets a Skype request (from the hackers) on his phone, linking him back up with Damon, but that’s all just so this league of 20,000-plus depraved gamers could see Matias witness Damon’s death by hanging. And witness Erica Dunne with a very unconvincing hole through her skull. And witness Amaya’s probable torture and death (we don’t get to see it because they had the money in their budget for only two gnarly deaths, I’m assuming) in that shady, dark building. Easily avoidable horror movie cliché no. 2: never go into a strange, dark place if you don’t have to. Amaya, you did this to yourself. Oh, also, Matias witnesses these serial-killer gamers vote on whether or not he should live. Of course, they vote no. And so he dies by getting hit, boringly, by a truck that seems to accelerate from 0 to 100 miles per hour suspiciously fast. That’s everything, right, Austin? Everyone just, uh, is dead?
Austin Elias-de Jesus: You kinda glossed over the fake suicide note typed out on Microsoft Word, the unconvincing Photoshop job the hackers do to pin the Erica Dunne kidnapping on Matias, and the fact Amaya thinks her boyfriend wanted to meet up in an abandoned warehouse, but yeah, this was pretty much what happened. (Although it should also be noted that when Matias got hit by that truck he was just stopped on his bike in the middle of a street and just chilling there, which is never a smart thing to do. You’re always at more risk of getting hit by a car if you’re in the middle of a road — that’s just statistics.)
Anyway, the final shots of the movie are of the hooded figures revealing their faces and smiling smugly, and a perspective shot that reveals that the whole movie was through the perspective of a guy with a desktop setup like Lucius Fox’s at the end of The Dark Knight. So, basically, we’ve been watching what this hacker guy has been seeing on his various computer screens the whole time. It was all a big “game night” for the hackers, and the internet and technology is terrible. And easily hackable. And we should all hurl our laptops and cellphones into the ocean.
2. Please explain Ending B of Unfriended: Dark Web as thoroughly as possible.
Elias-de Jesus: I, unfortunately (or fortunately?), didn’t see Ending B; I saw Ending A twice. This worked out really well for me, as I was saved from the stress brought about by a whole new ending to a horror movie. Also I knew when to cover my eyes to miss seeing A MAN HANGED ON SCREEN.
Cai: All right, so here’s what happened this time: Once again, Matias decides to split up from Damon which, once again, results in both of their deaths. Just like in Ending A, the gamers break into Damon’s apartment and hang him. But not before Damon witnesses Erica Dunne scream after realizing she’s been trepanated, though I can’t tell if the scream is because there was a hole in her head or because she saw how half-baked the makeup for it was. This time around, though, Matias isn’t there to watch. Damon and Matias’s video chat culminates with Matias discovering a freshly dug grave and an empty coffin at the site where he and Amaya first kissed (he told her using sign language to meet him there). Suddenly, one of the psychotic Dark Web gamers runs up from behind and whacks him in the head. Then we see Damon’s death. Meanwhile, Amaya arrives at the gravesite, only now it looks like a normal patch of grass because these gamer dudes somehow managed to get Matias into the coffin and the hole covered up in the time it takes for you to microwave a bag of popcorn. Amaya arrives and tries to video chat with her boyfriend, and the resulting vibration on his phone prompts Matias to wake up. Only for some reason — hacker tricks, I think — she’s unable to read his lips. When he tries to send her texts instead, every message auto-switches to “I wish I could sign better.” So, the ending is that Amaya survives, while Matias dies in the most horrifying way possible — by screaming “I can’t breathe” while trapped in a coffin.
Elias-de Jesus: Um, wow.
3. How many times did you have to see Dark Web to see both endings? Or did you just give up?
Cai: I had to go to only two screenings to see both endings!
Elias-de Jesus: Cool, man. I gave up after the second viewing. I do not know if I could watch this movie again. I know a lot of people are saying that this movie was really tame compared to most or pretty much all horror movies, but I once had nightmares after reading a Hardy Boys book when I was 8, so … I am not, shall we say, Unfriended: Dark Web’s “target audience,” and I will not go see it again, no matter how badly I want to see the second ending (read: no matter how much my boss tells me to).
4. Grade the endings of Unfriended: Dark Web and explain your judgment.
Cai: Ending A gets a D. The original Unfriended ended with a jump scare that was, while comically low budget, still satisfying. By the time the ending rolls around in Dark Web, scare techniques and suspenseful sequences are being recycled. Damon’s death feels like something you could see in a typical non-horror drama film; we don’t even get to see what happens to Amaya; and Matias being hit by a truck has got to be among the most disappointing whimpers a horror movie has ended on.
Ending B, though: B+. Credit to Unfriended: Dark Web for trying to manufacture some character development. It feels poetic that the movie culminates with Matias being killed physically and tortured mentally, the latter as all his text-message pleas to Amaya are automatically manipulated into apology texts about the exact thing they’ve been fighting about. Bonus points for ending with a truly frightening death — I shudder at the thought of being buried alive.
Elias-de Jesus: Yeah, sounds cool, dude.
Seeing as I saw the same ending twice, I can’t really grade the endings, but I can grade my viewings of the same ending. My first viewing of Ending A gets a D.
I thought the whole “The Circle has been controlling everything and has framed Matias and his friends” thing was sort of interesting, if not a little dumb and implausible. However, I super was not into the whole “defenseless young deaf woman is lured into a creepy warehouse” thing. Also, did I mention, I had to watch a man being hanged? That’s always a big no for me.
With the second viewing of Ending A, I knew what was coming, so it wasn’t so bad. But for some reason I kept my eyes on the screen during the Erica Dunne–trephination reveal, which added some unnecessary stress to my life. I also thought it was funny that sophisticated hackers would use Microsoft Word for Damon’s “suicide note,” instead of TextEdit or iPhone Notes. I’ll give the second watch a C-.
5. Spot the differences — in how many ways did the endings of Dark Web vary?
Cai: OK, let me try to get everything:
- In Ending A, Matias gets hit by a truck and that’s that. In Ending B, it’s way more drawn out: He’s buried underground with no chance of escaping.
- Damon gets hanged by a noose over his bathroom door in both endings, but he’s the one who sees Erica Dunne’s bad makeup in Ending B instead of Matias.
- It’s insinuated that Amaya is going to get tortured and probably killed in Ending A. In Ending B, her life is spared as it seems like the hacker gamers were sympathetic to Matias’s plea for her life. Instead, she’s left with her last memory of Matias as one where he apologizes for not learning sign language. What a wholesome conclusion!
6. If Unfriended: Dark Web could have, ya know, had a different ending, what would you have liked to have seen?
Cai: It’s hard to imagine that the film could have ended in any radically different way, plot-wise at least. It might’ve been a cool out-of-left-field twist if it was revealed that Amaya was part of the bloodthirsty hacker network. Or that she wasn’t actually deaf. But I can’t really complain about how Ending B wrapped up.
Elias-de Jesus: Like I said, I actually thought the big, dumb reveal that the hacker people were actually in control of everything the entire time and were framing the group of friends was somewhat interesting. I guess, given my disposition and the way I’ve tried to live my life for the past 22 years, it would have been cool to see an ending where everyone lived and the whole thing was just a really elaborate game night where everything was just part of a fun game. You know, like the movie Game Night. Yeah. I would have liked if Unfriended: Dark Web were the movie Game Night.