Movie Review: “Friend Request” Delivers A Creepy Little Horror Film

“Watching the movie unspool was actually quite refreshing and director Simon Verhoeven seemed intent on trying to tell a legitimately scary story, instead of resorting to cheap camera tricks and scares to get the audience's reaction every few minutes.”


 

A popular college student graciously accepts a social outcast’s online friend request, but soon finds herself fighting a demonic presence that wants to make her lonely by killing her closest friends.

I think most of us these days are familiar with the horrors of social media. Do I join Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Snapchat? And the list goes on. According to a survey by statista.com, in August of 2017, “Facebook was the first social network to surpass 1 billion registered accounts and currently sits at 2.05 billion monthly active users.” That is a lot of people. So it makes perfect sense that the new horror film, “Friend Request,” would utilize this social network as the backdrop for its story.

Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey) appears to have it all, she’s a grade-A student and very popular on campus, has a hunky medical school boyfriend, and is surrounded by her best friends, apparently, she has it all. That is until she meets Marina (Liesl Ahlers), the loneliest girl in the school. When she sends a friend request to Laura on Facebook, she checks out Marina’s profile and is saddened when she sees that she has no friends. Feeling sorry for her, she accepts her request but then things get weird. Marina starts messaging her all the time, texting her, even calling her at home and when word gets out that Laura is having a small birthday bash with her friends, Marina invites herself but Laura tells her that it will only be her and her boyfriend. Later that night at the party, however, everyone has their phones out taking photos and they all end up on Facebook.The next day at school, Marina confronts Laura and when Laura tries to apologize, Marina freaks out and leaves the building.

Over the weekend she decides to unfriend Marina and try to get back to normal but when she arrives at school Monday morning, she is horrified when their teacher informs them that Marina took her own life. Her friends try to console her but then a video of Marina killing herself appears on Laura’s Facebook page. She tries to delete it but cannot and the school and the police become involved when students complain to the faculty about the video. Soon thereafter, her friends begin to exhibit strange behavior and gradually, one by one, they start killing themselves. After their deaths, videos of the disturbing acts continue to appear on Laura’s page and people begin unfriending her in droves. With the help of her ex, Kobe (Connor Paolo), they begin to realize that what is happening is supernatural and after digging into Marina’s background, they find out that she was an orphan as a child and was bullied everywhere she went. When they uncover that one of the homes she was living at burned to the ground under mysterious circumstances and that she was the only survivor, the two pinpoint the exact location and make their way to the place of residence, or what’s left of it, to try and figure out who Marina was, and what she wants.

I have become so bored with the onslaught of terrible horror films of late, “Rings,” “Blair Witch,” “The Bye Bye Man,” “Wish Upon,” that when I first saw the trailer for “Friend Request,” it had generic written all over it but that just goes to show the power (or lack thereof), of marketing. Watching the movie unspool was actually quite refreshing and director Simon Verhoeven seemed intent on trying to tell a legitimately scary story, instead of resorting to cheap camera tricks and scares to get the audience’s reaction every few minutes. The fact that for the first half of the story nobody knows who Marina is, where she comes from, or what her intentions are, keeps you guessing all the way through. With a less-than-stellar clichéd finale, I can forgive that one element since everything else was in good standing. I don’t imagine “Friend Request” will make a lot of money, more than likely it will get a limited release and then make its way to Blu-ray & DVD but that is where I feel, and hope, it will find its audience.

In theaters Friday, September 22nd


 

James McDonald

Originally from Dublin, Ireland, James is a Movie Critic and Celebrity Interviewer with over 30 years of experience in the film industry as an Award-Winning Filmmaker.
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