Don't See 'Friend Request' Alone, But Not Because It's Too Scary

By James Jay Edwards
Released: September 22. 2017
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Synopsis
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.

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Film Review
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With technology advancing at the speed of light and social media becoming many people's main source of communication, it's no wonder that horror movies have embraced and explored the darker side of the phenomenon in movies like Unfriended, The Den, Open Windows, and Ratter. Well, you can add another technophobic movie to the list with Friend Request.

Friend Request, photo courtesy Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures 2017, All Rights Reserved.


Friend Request is about a popular college student named Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey from "Fear the Walking Dead") who suddenly receives a Facebook friend request from a shy outcast girl in her psychology class named Marina (Inside Job's Liesl Ahlers). After taking a look at Marina's profile and seeing that the girl is a talented artist and animator, Laura accepts the request and adds Marina to her over-800 Facebook friends. Thinking that they are now best friends, Marina gets a little too creepy for Laura, and is promptly unfriended. Marina takes the dumping seriously, and commits suicide while her webcam records it. And that's when things get weird for Laura, as Marina seems to take control over her Facebook feed, using it to systematically stalk and kill Laura's peers until there no more friends left on her list.

If it sounds like Friend Request is a silly premise for a movie, that's because it is. The film was directed by German filmmaker Simon Verhoeven (Men in the City) from a script he wrote with help from Matthew Ballen (his first produced feature) and Philip Koch (Outside the Box). Verhoeven got the idea for the story while checking his Facebook page and wondering what he would do if he got a message from a friend who had died. This snowballed into the cyber-stalking, psycho-killy, witchcraft-infused tale that is the basis of Friend Request.

Friend Request, photo courtesy Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures 2017, All Rights Reserved.


What Friend Request boils down to is your basic slasher movie. Marina's "spirit," in the form of Laura's Facebook profile, slices and dices its way through Laura's highly disposable friends list with surgical precision. And, like many slasher movies, Friend Request is poorly written, full of brainless dialogue, unlikely situations, and flawed logic. But, also like many slasher movies, for as bad as it is, Friend Request is fun to watch. Mainly because it is so bad.

Friend Request is a great slumber party movie. It's got enough scares to feel dangerous, yet is still packed with unintentional humor that just begs to be experienced in a group. It's the type of movie that audience members talk back to, and the rest of the audience doesn't mind, because what they're saying is more entertaining than the movie itself. If there's one reason to see Friend Request in a theater, that's it: the communal experience of making fun of it.

Friend Request, photo courtesy Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures 2017, All Rights Reserved.


Like many movies about "modern" technology, Friend Request is not going to age well. In fact, it will probably look dated by the end of its opening weekend. Which is fine, because there's little chance that anyone will want to revisit it, unless it's playing at midnight at an arthouse theater on off-weekends from The Room and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Scary Factor
The saving grace of Friend Request is that there are a handful of good scares in it. Most of them are cheap, sudden shock and loud volume jump scares. There is some genuinely creepy imagery in the film, such as in one scene where Marina's spirit takes over an entire college computer lab. But the real scary stuff comes in the form of palpable suspense. It is discovered that Marina practices something called Black Mirror Witchcraft in which the subject peers into a black mirror (or a computer screen, or a tablet) until something happens. There are plenty of scenes of this, and not all of them amount to anything, but the point is that the viewer doesn't know if they're going to amount to anything, and the tension is almost unbearable as the character stares into the darkness for what seems like an eternity. Once the scare comes, there's more laughter of course, but for those few seconds of mystery, Friend Request is terrifying.

Friend Request, photo courtesy Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures 2017, All Rights Reserved.



Genres
Horror, Thriller
Release Date
September 22. 2017
MPAA Rating
R
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