Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Film Review: The Den (2013)

The Den (Review)
United States/2013
Version Watched For Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No
A 31 Days of Halloween Special Review!*

"...an excellent time-killer..."

Elizabeth (Melanie Papalia) receives a grant to study the people who use an online-chat website called “The Den” and stumbles upon some grizzly footage...

The Den is a straightforward found-footage horror film – it's not exactly a traditional found-footage horror film, though, as it is captured through webcams this time around. Anyway, the film begins with Elizabeth meeting the people who frequent this website, which includes some normal people and a lot of lewdness. Eventually, she witnesses a gruesome murder and becomes target to an unknown assailant – her friends also unwittingly become targets. The film keeps a creepy and realistic vibe throughout most of the film, though that vibe is lost temporarily during the final act. The ending itself is haunting, but it felt expected.

As a horror film, I think The Den does a satisfying job in creating an ominous atmosphere that is mostly grounded in reality. For the most part, if you frequent these type of chat sites, which do exist, then you've likely ran into a handful of these people; and, I think the introduction does a great job in setting that up. It also continues to build up the creep-factor by creating a subtle home invasion feeling – you know, the feeling that you are always watched, especially through the webcam you think is off. There is also some great suspense here and there, and some surprising jump-scares. Generally, the film kind of feels like a found-footage slasher – I like that, too many supernatural found-footage films nowadays.

Although The Den breaks away from many found-footage cliches, the film still opts for many general horror cliches. The characters aren't very developed and they're not very bright, either. For example, the cops seem to be completely useless in this film, as they are in many horror films. Furthermore, lead character Elizabeth isn't very likable – I noticed she calls a friend for help often, then shoves him away for no apparent reason. I think this, in turn, affects the overall immersion and realism of the film; I just didn't really root for her. Aside from the characters and the cliches, the film's latter half feels rushed and also unrealistic – at least compared to the rest of the film – kind of feels like it's throwing everything at you in a last attempt to scare and thrill.

Although I did not like her character, I think Melanie Papalia delivered a very solid performance – a little overacted here and there, but good by most horror standards. The supporting cast was also good. This is probably the least nauseating found-footage film I've ever seen; the final act becomes somewhat hectic, but most of the film was really smooth thanks to the webcam-style shooting. Writer and director Zachary Donohue has an interesting and creative concept, at least by found-footage standards, and executes it well for the most part; aside from the messy final act, I think Donohue does well in buildup and in crafting suspense, and in crafting an overall creepy atmosphere.

Overall, The Den is a good horror film. It's a simple yet engaging found-footage horror film. The suspense is good, the jump-scares are decent, and the creepy mood is well executed. (who have you been talking to?) It does fall apart a bit towards the ending, and the characters could have used some
fine-tuning, but I think The Den is an excellent time-killer – especially considering the very forgiving short runtime.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, full-nudity and sex.

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