Sponsor

New Release Review - FRIEND REQUEST

A suicide victim takes revenge on the friends of a girl who socially shunned her.



Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Simon Verhoeven

Starring: Alycia Debnam-Carey, Liesl Ahlers, William Moseley, Connor Paolo, Brit Morgan



Friend Request is yet another sub-mainstream horror movie that shows no understanding of its genre. It's devoid of the basic elements that make horror work; tension, suspense and atmosphere are shunned in favour of - BANG - jump scares, as per bloody usual. To quote one of the film's more amusing lines, "Unfriend this dead bitch!"




Last year Unfriended took a lot of jaded horror fans by surprise with its skillful and realistic use of social media, playing out its entire story on the screen of its final girl's laptop without losing out on the ability to build tension and suspense. The same can't be said of Friend Request, a cynical attempt to cash in on the millenial generation's relationship with technology, and one which shows no basic understanding of said technology.

Fear the Walking Dead's Alycia Debnam-Carey gives a spirited performance as Laura, a highly popular student at Salem University (groan). You can tell exactly how popular she is by the hundreds of friends on her Facebook page. Not so popular is Marina (Liesl Ahlers), a goth girl with a penchant for pulling her hair out. You can tell how unpopular Marina is by the number of Facebook friends she has - zero.



Marina sends out a friend request to Laura, who accepts, as she admires the animations Marina creates and posts on her page. Laura clearly knows nothing about animation, as these are Studio Ghibli type productions, not the product of a bored Marilyn Manson fan; something's clearly up here. When Marina's animations begin to take an increasingly darker turn, Laura follows the advice of her catty dorm mates and declines to invite Marina to her birthday party, which causes the latter to react by hanging herself, posting the suicide footage online.

As if the guilt isn't enough to contend with in itself, Laura finds herself haunted by Marina, who manipulates the Facebook page of Laura and her friends, causing them to commit suicide one by one.



Were it not for the presence of social media, Friend Request could fool you into believing it was made in 2001. Its aesthetic is very much of the post-Scream era, and we even have a Freddie Prinze Jnr lookalike in Connor Paolo, who plays a bitter friend-zoned hanger on here. Even the clothes and hairstyles seem oddly dated, which may have something to do with this being a German production passing itself off as American.

If the movie doesn't quite understand present day American teens, it certainly doesn't comprehend the technology they engage with. Every time a character is about to be offed, the soundtrack hums with that static feedback noise created when a pre-smartphone mobile is about to ring near a speaker, despite the fact that it's the internet, not the phone lines, that's being supernaturally manipulated here.

Though Facebook is front and centre in the plot, the word 'Facebook' is never actually uttered here, possibly because it's a terrible advertisement for the social network, whose admins are portrayed as willing bystanders in the ongoing horror, allowing a stream of suicide vids to be sent out across their network. Of course, the entire plot may have been avoided had anyone thought to alert Facebook in the first place.



Friend Request is yet another sub-mainstream horror movie that shows no understanding of its genre. It's devoid of the basic elements that make horror work; tension, suspense and atmosphere are shunned in favour of - BANG - jump scares, as per bloody usual.

The trouble with horror is that it's the most difficult genre to get right, but it's the easiest fanbase to exploit. Horror fans are willing to sit through the 90% of garbage from exploitive hacks to get to the 10% of goodness from filmmakers who understand just how great the genre can be. Friend Request is very much part of that 90%, and if you're a horror buff you're probably going to force yourself to endure it until the next It Follows comes along, but be warned, it's awful. To quote one of the film's more amusing lines, "Unfriend this dead bitch!"







discussion by