Friend Request is less of a horror film and more a collection of tropes and clichés sellotaped and stitched together to create a Frankenstein’s monster of bad ideas you’ve seen done better in other films.
The techno-thriller tells the tale of Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey), a popular girl with a seemingly perfect life.
One day she takes pity on a social outcast named Marina (Liesl Ahlers) who doesn’t even have a single friend on a suspiciously familiar looking social media site which for legal reasons most definitely isn’t Facebook!
Laura soon discovers, however, that Marina may not be the most balanced of friends when the notifications come pouring in, forcing our heroine to unfriend the social pariah, causing the poor girl to commit suicide. And that’s when things get spooky.
While nowhere near as bad as it could have been, I did not like this film one iota. Last year, I was pleasantly surprised by the Facebook themed horror flick, Unfriended, a surprisingly effective shocker that, while not groundbreaking, was at least presented in a fresh way and committed fully to its social media scares.
Friend Request though felt like the off-cuts of that script, with every hokey horror trope that wasn’t in Unfriended appearing in this film, including overblown gore, jump scares galore, and a plot so rickety that even the lightest breeze is capable of bringing the whole thing tumbling down.
Worst of all is the film’s ‘villain’, the demonic Marna, who’s written with all the subtlety of a car horn, and moves through the film basically ticking the usual demon/ghost haunting boxes, until the mind numbingly inevitable finale.
The only thing that elevates it above being a honking pile of bat shit is the interesting idea at its core. We share so much of ourselves online these days that people who don’t even know you can inadvertently begin to think that you’re friends, even if they’re complete strangers.
Unfortunately, the film skates around this interesting topic so it can delight in the strange addiction of all sub-par horror films – the infamous jump scare. I fucking hate jump scares. It’s a lazy cop out crappy films use when they find themselves unable to actually build suspense or dread!
Honestly, it feels like such a shame as there’s an interesting seed of an idea in these weird social media horrors, and scary movies are a good place to examine humanity’s relationship with the new and the strange.
Personally, I’d love a film to dissect our Internet addiction like David Cronenberg did with technology in Videorome, but instead we get generic plot beat after generic plot beat in the lead up to the usual predictable ending you saw signposted about 15 minutes into the movie.
The only other saving grace of this film is Alycia Debnam-Carey who manages to make Laura likeable and vulnerable enough that we actually care for her plight, despite the fact that her character is as shallow as a particularly dry riverbed.
All the other characters are standard horror movie cutouts who fulfil their roles well enough but fail to stick with you once the credits start to roll.
Friend Request – request denied!