The Internet Remains Undefeated, written and directed by Robbie Gibbon, unveils itself as a head-scratching display of surrealist comedy with a scant splash of the spine-chilling paranormal. The short’s plot reads like the lovechild of Black Mirror (2011) and The Twilight Zone (1959) –– strange and simply perplexing. While the film is not particularly enjoyable, it is difficult to deny the baffling storyline and trippy visuals as anything but memorable.
Sleep-deprived Layla (Megan Rose McCarthy) only wants a night’s rest in bed with her girlfriend, Mary (Amal Khalidi). Unfortunately, their next-door neighbors seem to have a habit of blasting music all night. While Mary might be able to tune the noise out, Layla can’t sleep and goes next door to do something about the racket. What she finds there leaves her trembling in terror.
It’s challenging to parse The Internet Remains Undefeated’s strengths from its weaknesses because the film's tone is confusing –– at least at first glance. Gibbon’s oddly spliced editing is a powerful storytelling device, which may seem “random” on the surface but reflects the reality of the internet. As Layla reflects at the film's opening, the internet’s comedy and virality make no sense. As a result, the short mimics that same kind of Dadaist, absurd humor. However, The Dancer’s (Adam Bernet) abnormality appears more ominous when superimposed over reality. Bernet’s character reads as a comedic but no less terrifying version of the entity from It Follows (2014), ever intent on following Layla and winning her over.
If given the benefit of the doubt, The Internet Remains Undefeated touches upon some intriguing motifs and themes. Layla cannot silence the music that keeps her up at night, symbolizing the codependent and psyche-damaging relationship between our society and social media. In this world where we can never truly “disconnect,” the true horror of such a situation is reflected clearly when the internet spills out from Layla’s computer into the real world, tormenting her endlessly. This is portrayed with a terrifying certainty as the film’s cat-and-mouse game is, at the very least, shot to significant effect by Ash Connaughton.
If nothing else, The Internet Remains Undefeated offers an exciting concept. It presents an odd and hyper-surreal reality in which the Internet must be embraced, lest it may destroy you. Buoyed by its small but effective cast, creative storyline, and Connaughton's impressive cinematography, the film is utterly unforgettable.