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Film / Untraceable

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The bandwidth costs are killer.

Untraceable is a 2008 thriller movie.

Jennifer Marsh (Diane Lane) is a single mother and an agent for the FBI's cyber crime unit with her partner Griffin Dowd (Colin Hanks). Their new case is tracking down and trying to bring down a new Web site,, which consists of streaming video of a cat put in a Saw-esque death trap, a chatroom for comments and a viewing counter which, as it rises, makes the death trap more and more dangerous for the victim inside. As the webmaster, Owen Reilly (Joseph Cross), moves up to human victims, the site's popularity grows, making the deaths on screen happen faster and faster.

The film is more or less a Take That! against media sensationalization of violence and gorn.


  • Bad People Abuse Animals: The first victim of the killer is a kitten that he coaxes into stepping on a glue rat trap. He livestreams as the poor animal gets more stuck and slowly dies.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Every male victim suffers through a slow and agonising death that even if someone managed to rescue them in time would leave lasting and obvious scarring. Jennifer is put in a death trap that will either kill her instantly or allow her to escape untouched.
  • Bookends: The movie starts with a car ride through Portland while it rains and the radio switches from the national to the local news. The same happens in the scene before the showdown.
  • Broken Aesop: Multiple critics have pointed out that the film comes across as hypocritical; its overall message condemns the public's obsession with violent media and the sensationalising of real-world violence, yet the film also indulges heavily in graphic scenes of torture and murder.
  • The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: Jeniffer works in the cyber crimes division of the FBI, yet her computer lacks any password, doesn't bat an eye when her daughter downloads a game that she got mailed "from a friend" (turns out it had a backdoor trojan) and when Annie tells her that there's a video of their house in the computer, she tells her from the shower to just go and watch anything she wishes.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Pretty much every death in the movie could count as this, but special mention goes to Griffin who is dissolved in battery acid.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: For what the killer does, he would not touch Annie, and states that on the website.
  • Everyone Knows Morse: Averted: Jennifer notices that Griffin's blinks look like morse code, but has to find somebody else to actually decipher it.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Every click brings somebody closer to death and the people keep hitting the site due to pure morbid curiosity. This is what Owen wanted to prove: that people don't care about others as long as they can see violence and death.
  • The titular untraceable website, which features live murders.
  • Poetic Serial Killer: While the victims themselves aren't killed in a poetic manner, the whole concept of the website is this. The killer was helpless to see as his father's suicide became viral when a newscast was posted on the internet. As revenge, he went after the men who reported the incident and broadcast their torture and death to the internet. The kitten belonged to another man who sold the glasses of the victim online, so he took something dear to him and destroyed it in front a live audience.
  • Real Is Brown: A lot of blues and grays, with very few vibrant colors. Then again, the movie is set in Portland, Oregon, where it's perpetually overcast.
  • Revenge: The main Motivation of the killer: his father commited suicide after his wife died and a news helicopter captured the whole thing live. The news station was forced to remove it, but then the video was posted on the internet and it became viral, causing his son Owen to have a breakdown and having to be hospitalized under suicide watch. All the victims (minus Griffin) were related to the incident:
    • Andrew Kilborn, whose accounts were used to spam the Internet to promote the website, was the one who posted the video online and started off the chain of events. He was killed off-screen.
    • Herbert Miller, the man who bled to death by being injected with anticoagulants, was the helicopter pilot who captured the whole incident on-camera.
    • David Williams, who had his arms and legs trapped in concrete while heat lamps burned him alive, was the lead reporter for the news station that broadcast the suicide.
    • The kitten turned out to belong to a man named Scotty Hillman, who found the the broken glasses of Owen's father and sold them online.
  • Stalker Without A Crush: The killer about halfway through the movie starts showing a live stream of Jennifer's house, mostly to intimidate her. He makes clear he's not going to hurt his daughter.
  • Streisand Effect: In-Universe. After initially discovering, the police department issues a public service announcement warning people to stay away from it, despite Jenniffer's advice to not do so. As she predicted and feared, this only serves to increase the website's popularity.
  • Too Dumb to Live: A couple of examples in this film. Most present one is how Jennifer gets captured. Basically, her remotely-accessible SUV stops, she gets out of the car and walks away. Then when the SUV magically starts again, sits right back down into the driver's seat without clearing the vehicle first.
  • Torture Cellar: Victims are killed in the basement of Owen's family home.
  • Western Terrorist: What the head of the field agent first makes Owen out to be—including comparisons to the Unabomber and Timothy McVeigh.
  • You Bastard!: The film's message is pretty much a Take That! against society's obsession over violence and Torture Porn, lampshading the message repeatedly.