If you’re looking for the best horror movies on Netflix for a scary-fun weekend, there is one gem that’s about to leave at the end of July, The Den. If you’re a fan of found footage horror movies, The Den is one of the best from that subgenre. Unlike the majority of found footage movies, which quickly became a tired subgenre, this does a fine job on how the film is presented. As Variety documented, this IFC Midnight feature is leaving Netflix on July 29, so watch this 2014 horror gem while you still have a chance.
The Den was co-written by Zachary Donohue and Lauren Thompson, and Donohue also directed. This marks his impressive feature-length debut. The Den stars Melanie Papalia, Adam Shapiro, Katija Pevec, Matt Riedy, and Anna Margaret Hollyman. With a “fresh” score of 78 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, the site describes the plot for one of the best horror movies on Netflix.
“After receiving a grant for her graduate thesis, Elizabeth Benton (Melanie Papalia) logs onto a video-chat site known as THE DEN, on a mission to explore the habits of its users. During one of her random video-chats, Elizabeth watches in horror as a teenage girl is gruesomely murdered in front of her webcam.
“While the police dismiss it as a viral prank, Elizabeth believes what she saw is real and takes it upon herself to find the truth. Her life quickly spirals out of control as she gets pulled deeper into the darkest recesses of the internet. And eventually, Elizabeth finds herself trapped in a twisted game in which she and her loved ones are targeted for the same grisly fate as the first victim.”
The opening shot of this horror treat is that of a desktop computer screen. We watch Benton log onto The Den, and it’s obvious that this story isn’t revealed as most other found footage films. The problem with the majority of found footage horror movies are two things. The first, the all too annoying shaky-cam effect. The often-nauseating shaky-cam pitfall that many horror movies unfortunately use speaks for itself.
The second problem this subgenre faces is the unrealistic way the story is captured. The idea that terrifying horror is unfolding right in front of someone and they continue to film it can often make it hard to suspend disbelief. Since this movie is shown through Elizabeth’s laptop, both of those common problems are absent in this found footage flick.
Unlike many genre films from years past, modern horror movies have been doing a much better job at featuring female characters that are strong and intelligent, such as the main character in this story. In the beginning sequences, we watch Elizabeth interact with a variety of users, and thanks to the writers’ witty dialogue, this is quite entertaining. It doesn’t take long until she sees the murder take place, and we’re off to the races. More than just being a witness to a murder, Elizabeth is hacked and spied on.
There is definitely a Hitchcockian tone to this movie, and it has fairly been described as a Rear Window for a modern generation. Though there are a couple of jump-scare scenes, most of the fear enticed by The Den comes from Donohue’s skill to build and deliver suspense effectively. The story of being hacked or spied on is also frightening in of itself. With an estimated 3.2 billion people in the world who are on the internet, there isn’t a shortage of an audience that have a fear of being hacked or snooped on, and unfortunately, many online users can relate to this heinous crime. This very real problem in our modern era adds to the realism and the terror of the story.
Melanie Papalia is a skilled actor, and hopefully she stars as the lead in many more horror movies to come. She reacts to the nightmare her character is living in a very real way, and it won’t be hard for viewers to root and cheer her on as she tries to get to the bottom of it all. The story builds to an ending that will stick to your skin. If you belong to any video chat sites, you may find yourself avoiding them for a few days after watching this.
At only 81 minutes, The Den is a swift and effective horror film that’s rewatchable. Donahue accomplishes more with 81 minutes than many filmmakers do with far more time. Even if you can’t stand found footage horror movies, this one on Netflix is most definitely worth the watch.