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Recap / Unfriended: Dark Web

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Matias O'Brien has come into ownership of a brand new laptop, thanks to a deal he found on Craigslist, which is just what he needs to work on an application that can translate speech to American sign language, so that he can better communicate with his hard-of-hearing girlfriend, Amaya DeSoto. While the app would be useful from a practical standpoint, however, his attempt to show it off to Amaya falls short: it makes it easier for her to understand him, but it does nothing to help him understand her.

Matias is invited into a Skype call with his friends: Damon Horton, a British programmer; Lexx Putri, an aspiring musician; Alistair "AJ" Jeffcock, a conspiracy theorist with his own Youtube show; and Serena Lange and her fiancee Nari Jemisin. They were setting time aside for "Game Night", where they would play Cards Against Humanity. As they try to have a good time, Matias's new laptop begins to act strangely, with apps intermittently crashing, the cause of which is eventually discovered to be a lack of memory due to a hidden folder taking up most of the hard drive. In addition, Matias keeps receiving direct messages from various women to the laptop's previous owner, known on Facebook as Norah C. IV. Eventually, Matias starts to receive DMs on his own Facebook account from a girl named Erica Dunne...except it's not actually her, but Norah, who demands the return of his laptop.

Matias receives another message from another Facebook user asking about payment. When Matias tries to ask for details, the person offers to go into further detail over "The River". A quick look into the files on the laptop reveals a messaging app called "The River", which resembles a chat program on early computers. As Matias shares his screen with the others in the Skype call so they could see what was going on, he is contacted by the Facebook contact, going by the screenname "Charon68" on the app. AJ quickly recognizes that this is an app for the "dark web", a network of computers inaccessible via conventional web browsers which are often used for shady, if not outright illegal, goods and services. "Charon68" had made a payment in Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency, for some kind of service involving trephination, an archaic surgical procedure entailing the drilling of holes in one's skull. Disgusted, and at the suggestion of his friends, Matias breaks contact with "Charon68". Damon also realizes that the "Norah C." is a pseudonym derived from the backwards spelling of "Charon", the ferryman of of the River Styx from Greek mythology.

Curious as to what exactly is going on with Norah C., Matias unlocks the hidden folder on the laptop, which he also reveals wasn't bought off of Craigslist, but taken from a cyber cafe's lost-and-found department — in otherwords, Matias had stolen it. The hidden folder contains videos taken from a variety of people's unprotected webcams, mostly innocuous. A series of videos in another folder, however, are much more sinister: these videos are of various women being tortured and murdered! The most recent video, which has a street address in its filename, shows a girl sleeping in her bed while a hooded assailant quietly enters through her window and looks up at the camera. This girl may be the next victim, the one "Charon68" was paying money to see tortured!

While trying to figure out their next course of action, Matias receives a Facebook video call from Amaya...or rather, from her computer: Amaya, herself, is in the shower, and her roommate Kelly answers the call. All seems fine until the video feed from Amaya's computer begins to glitch and stutter. Suddenly, a hooded assailant appears behind Kelly, attacks her, and drags her away. It is "Norah", who warns Matias that if he tries to warn anyone of what was happening, he would kill Amaya. He wants his laptop back, and will follow Amaya until he either gets it or decides to kill her.

In a desperate bid to keep her safe, Matias states that everything that had happened with his laptop, from the strange videos to "The River", was all a game he concocted, one that would illicit visceral reactions. Some of his friends are impressed, but Serena and Nari are very upset. With their suspicions allayed for the time being, Matias calls Amaya back and invites her over to his house. Amaya is still not happy with Matias: she had recommended Matias take ASL classes so they could communicate, but he had shirked on his lessons. Matias admits that he was afraid: the instructor impressed upon him the difficulties, and the intimacy, in a person of hearing using ASL to communicate with a partner who could not hear, but he truly wished for their relationship to work out. Touched by the sentiment, Amaya agrees to visit.

Matias, however, remains concerned for the safety of Erica Dunne, whom he discovered through some cyber-sleuthing was not only the girl in the video they saw of her sleeping, but had been missing. He creates an account for a Bitcoin wallet and uses it to steal Norah's Bitcoins, worth over ten million dollars. Norah starts a video call with Matias to chastise him, but Matias states his terms for Norah: he would give the laptop back to him in exchange for Amaya's safety, and he would give Norah's Bitcoins back in exchange for Erica's safety.

As the two argue, "The River" launches on its own, and Matias finds himself being contacted by "The Circle", a group of multiple users, all with the name "Charon", who demand to know why Norah emptied his account. Matias, with some help from Norah, manages to assure them that he is simply transferring to a new cryptocurrency with a better exchange rate. His terms for Norah, however, still stand: Amaya's life for the laptop, and Erica's safety for the money.

Matias does not get a chance to catch his breath, however, as hackers begin to barge into the Skype call. Lexx had stepped out of her room to take a call earlier, but Matias and his friends watch in horror as the hackers stream their finding Lexx's personal information. They are next shown a recently-uploaded Youtube video of Lexx standing on the roof of her apartment when, suddenly, a hooded figure obscured by graphical artifacts shoves her onto the street below, murdering her. The hackers then skim through videos of AJ's conspiracy theorist show on Youtube, taking audio clips and using them to make a call to 911 threatening a mass shooting. A SWAT team arrives at AJ's house shortly afterwards and, as AJ tries to placate them, the hackers take control of his stereo to play a loud clip of a shotgun loading, causing the SWAT officers to gun AJ down.

Afterwards, the hackers show video from after a previous Skype call of Serena and Nari discussing their marriage plans. Serena's mother was in the hospital with end-stage brain cancer, and she didn't want to have to choose between her mother and Nari, to which Nari suggested having their wedding in her mother's hospital room so she could be a witness while she was still alive. The hackers then cut Serena off from the other surviving Skype call members and present to her a choice of who should live: Nari, who had left to contact the police and was waiting at the subway station for a ride; or her mother, who was asleep in her room on life support. The hackers give Serena thirty seconds to make her choice. Serena begs, pleads, and ultimately refuses to make a choice. For her defiance, she is forced to watch as her mother's life support is shut off while a hooded, glitchy assassin shoves Nari into the path of a subway train — the same train Amaya and Norah were riding. Shortly afterwards, another assassin appears in Serena's room and kills her as well

With the situation growing increasingly grim, Matias departs to find Amaya, leaving the laptop on and remotely connected to Damon's computer so he could copy over the incriminating videos on the hard drive to give to the police. When a member of The Circle hacks into the laptop and takes remote control, Damon warns them that he has plenty of damning evidence on them. To his horror, however, he learns that the laptop was actually set up as bait: they were counting on someone to take it and use it so they could set their hapless victims up for their crimes, editing the video of Erica's abduction to make it appear as though Matias kidnapped her and stealthily placing her, post-trephination, in Matias's home. Not long after, another assassin breaks into Damon's room and hangs him, staging his death to look like a suicide while another hacker writes a confession on his computer to implicate him and his friends.

As Matias looks for Amaya, the hacker controlling the laptop launches Matias's speech-to-ASL app and uses it to trick Amaya into entering a particular building, luring her into clutches of another assassin. Broken, Matias begs the hackers to answer why they were doing all this, to which they tauntingly reply with a recording of Matias saying "It's game night". A poll is then launched with the question: "Should Matias live?" Over the next two minutes, tens of thousands cast their votes. Once the votes are tallied, the results show an overwhelming majority voting "No".

Moments later, a van runs into Matias, killing him instantly.

Matias and all of his friends are dead. All for the amusement of an audience of "Charons" watching their demise over the dark web...


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