Review

Review

FEARNET Movie Review: 'The Den'

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Horror has always been considered sort of a "niche" genre, but even within the vaunted halls of horror-dom, there are smaller niches. Cannibal movies are sort of like that; there are some serious horror fans who simply don't like all those crazy old Italian cannibal movies. (Strange but true.) "Found footage" is a horror sub-genre "niche" that seems to have few supporters and a whole lot of detractors -- but the stream of found footage horror flicks doesn't seem like it will be abating any time soon.

 
So perhaps it's just time to accept that the gimmick is here to stay, and focus on the indie horror films that do manage to craft a gimmicky horror movie that also actually works as, you know, just a plain old movie. The Den is, obviously, a pretty solid example of how to not only do found footage well, but how to bring new ideas (and new technology) into a relatively new sub-genre. Although probably inspired by the very clever short "The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She Was Younger " from V/H/S (part 1), The Den manages to get past a few first-act hurdles and quickly congeal into a rather fascinating little terror tale.
 
Long story short: The Den is a scary tale told exclusively through webcams, phone cams, and a few random security cameras that help to piece a rather circuitous plot together towards the ending. If you're already rolling your eyes at the idea of a 95% webcam-style horror feature, then you might want to skip The Den entirely. If, on the other hand, you dig "found footage style" or you're curious to see if an all webcam-style movie could actually work, then definitely give this flick a shot. Gimmicks aside, The Den is a rather clever, and enjoyably creepy, piece of scary storytelling.
 
More specifically, The Den is about a grad student named Elizabeth who just got a large grant for her social media studies thesis. Basically, Liz is going to spend as much time as humanly possible on the video sharing / social network outlet known simply as "The Den." She hopes to illustrate the wondrously wide array of humanity that exists online -- but all she finds are horny boys, freaky drag queens, and pre-fabricated "shock value" sketches. And then Elizabeth stumbles across something that sure SEEMS like an actual murder... but it couldn't be real, could it?
 
And that's just the early set-up. If The Den has a little trouble laying down its "all webcam" storytelling gimmick and building up its plot at the same time, these issues are quickly smoothed out once the movie dives into a middle section full of clever ideas -- and a third act that actually manages to transcend the visual trickery. What begins as a weird novelty flick quickly evolves into a legitimately scary movie, and it certainly doesn't hurt that director Zachary Donohue and co-writer Lauren Thompson have more on their mind that simply copying a hot new horror trend. The film goes to some unexpectedly dark places, and that always helps to keep an attentive horror fan on their toes.
 
Backed by a very strong performance by Melanie Papalia as our naive heroine and some fine support work from Adam Shapiro and David Schlachtenhaufen as the men in her (online) life, The Den starts out a little rocky but if you're not completely fed up with "found footage" filmmaking by now and you're willing to give a non-traditional visual presentation a fair shot, The Den has some pretty compelling things to say about the alleged safety of the internet. 
 

READ FEARNET'S PARTNER REVIEWS OF THE DEN

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