THE DEN-United States-81 Mins. 2013
Directed by Zachary Donohue
Written by Zachary Donohue and Lauren Thompson
Elizabeth receives a grant that allows her to study the online activities of random people on the internet. She uses, along with her webcam, a chat hub known as The Den, a form of chat roulette. Until a person’s face, user name and location appears on screen, Elizabeth has no idea who she will be chatting with or where they are from, much less what they will be doing. There are the usual things a person might expect to see: the fellow from a foreign country who promises to send her a million dollars if she will just be his beneficiary to receive thirteen million dollars; the kid who pranks her by eliciting a frightened response from her; and also the guy who does nothing but wave his penis from side to side. In between this are the usual weirdo’s, lonely hearts and guys begging to see a female nipple here and there. Elizabeth also witnesses the alleged murder of a young girl and when she is unable to get help from the police she investigates further and discovers that while she is watching everyone else someone is watching her and this ultimately puts Elizabeth, and her friends and family, in grave danger.
The Den surprised me. The method of using webcams as a plot device has been used before, especially with films in the Paranormal Activity series, mainly the fourth installment. However with The Den I found it to be a fresh approach to the genre of found footage filmmaking. In a vague way the film also reminded me of Eli Roth’s Hostel; I think this is because Roth says he got the idea (for Hostel) from Harry Knowles at Ain’t It Cool News who showed him a website offering the opportunity, for a substantial sum, for a person to go into a room and murder another person in cold blood.
The Den is not the perfect found footage film. The beginning is monotonous and for a while I toyed with the idea of turning the movie off and going to bed. Another thing that annoyed me was the hostility that Elizabeth meets with from the online community while trying to find answers. To put it mildly, I know that the internet can be full of self-centered douchebags but everyone-I think not. I persevered through to the end and found myself disturbed enough by what I saw that when I finally did go to bed I had trouble sleeping. This is not a usual occurrence for me. The final act of The Den redeems the beginning and the entire film proves what we have known all along: that whether we believe it or not the internet is not as safe as we would assume, and that we have no idea just how evil this world can be.
Melanie Papalia also appears in Smiley and American Pie Presents: The Book of Love.
David Schlachtenhaufen also appears in Loose Cannons: The Movie and Sal.
Adam Shapiro also appears in Now You See Me and A Single Man.