FRIEND REQUEST (USA/16/92mins)

Directed by Simon Verhoeven. Starring Alycia Debnam-Carey, William Moseley, Connor Paolo, Brit Morgan, Brooke Markham, Liesl Ahlers, Shashawnee Hall, Nicolas Pauling.

THE PLOT: The super-popular, super-pretty Laura (Debnam-Carey) is a friend to pretty much everyone at school – hence the constantly rising number of friends she has on the Facebook clone used here for copyright purposes. In fact, possibly the only kid Laura isn’t friends with is the mysterious, brooding goth girl, Marina (Ahlers), who keeps to herself, draws dark, Gaiman-esque animation shorts (all in black & white, of course), and has a total of zero friends on fake Facebook.

Naturally, Laura decides to give this poor girl a break, and clicks confirm on that friend request. Which automatically unleashes a desperate, troubled and troubling stalker. Who’s fecking kick-ass at coding. Only problem is, Marina’s even more persistent in her stalking after she commits suicide live on social media...

THE VERDICT: Welcome to I Know What You Did Last Facebook Post, this by-the-numbers OMG teen horror flick appearing to have time-travelled straight out of the 1990s. Just before Scream started making fun of films just like Friend Request.

It’s like this movie is actually strutting around in stone-washed jeans. Sporting dirty great big rips at the knee.

Full of the kind of black magic that 14-year-old goths find mindbending, it doesn’t help here that the leading lady in this Carrie-meets-Zuckerberg looks like a fresh-faced Emmy Rossum.

Ironically, for a film all about a supernatural killer who uses Facebook as their stalking ground, Friend Request is going to suffer a quick death at the busy hands of social media. RATING: 2.5/5

REVIEW BY PAUL BYRNE

FRIEND REQUEST REVIEW
2.5Unfriended!
  • filmbuff2011

    Is haunted social media becoming a new horror sub-genre? That seems to be the suggestion, after last year’s truly atrocious Unfriended. This year’s sacrificial lamb is Friend Request, a close cousin to Unfriended but it actually manages to be better. Though, that’s not saying much.

    Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey) is a popular, pretty college student who has it all. She willingly accepts friend requests on her Facebook page, adding to her growing numbers of online friends. She meets new girl in college Marina (Liesl Ahlers), who is socially awkward and seemingly unable to interact with anyone else except her. Being a nice girl, Laura accepts Marina’s friend request, after seeing her artistic side on her page. Strangely though, she has no online friends. Though, there are hints of something darker underneath. Marina’s behaviour becomes increasingly obsessive, not in a Fatal Attraction-way, but in a desperate yearning to have a friend way. Laura doesn’t know what to do and pretends to be polite about it. This leads to Marina’s suicide after Laura unfriends her. Then strange things start to happen. Her timeline is taken over by a ghostly presence and suicide videos are posted to her page. Unable to delete anything or shut down her page, Laura’s friends start to disappear from her Facebook account. Then they start disappearing in the offline world too…

    Not that you would know it from its American setting, but Friend Request is actually a German film shot in South Africa with an English-speaking cast. That might explain why it hasn’t been released in the US yet – just as well for them. The whole social media horror thing is a hollow concept which is unconvincing. It still has to make the case for its existence. The main problem is that these basic set-’em-up and knock-’em-down cardboard characters don’t know when to switch off their devices and let the evil go away. Director Simon Verhoeven and his co-writers Matthew Ballen and Philip Koch make some vague attempts at tackling this, but there’s never an earnest attempt to make it realistic. Why not just take a sledgehammer to all these devices? It just doesn’t work as a horror concept. Ringu and its sequels and American remakes made a cursed videotape far more engaging.

    To be fair, there are actually some good, gory scares in the film. But some of them are of the jumpy variety where you know what’s about to happen anyway. We’ve been here before – many times before and Verhoeven has nothing new to add here. Debnam-Carey gives a good performance as the lead, but the rest of the cast are fairly useless with no attempt to give the other characters three dimensions. A third act turn into dark, dank corridors in abandoned buildings to root out the source of Marina’s tragic past is reminiscent of the awful A Nightmare On Elm Street remake. By then, the plot goes off the rails which is capped off with a poor ending that doesn’t make sense. Friend Request is very average horror that doesn’t aspire to be anything more than it is. It’s junk, but just about watchable junk at that. You’d be better off not accepting this Friend Request and instead enter the superb Green Room, which opens soon. **

  • emerb

    Social media horror is a relatively new genre and the latest to hit the big screen is “Friend Request”. It is the first horror outing from German director Simon Verhoeven and stars Alycia Debnam-Carey, Liesl Ahlers, Brit Morgan, William Moseley and Connor Paolo. Predominantly aimed at the teen market, it has plenty of scares but a rather formulaic plot.

    Highly popular college psychology student (Alycia Debnam-Carey) has everything – she is party loving, health conscious, pretty and has over 800 Facebook friends. Out of sympathy, she befriends Marina (Liesl Ahlers), a mysterious and troubled girl in her class, whom she barely knows and so becomes her first and only Facebook friend. This turns out to be a very bad idea and thereafter a hellish struggle ensues. Marina gets clingy, obsessive and bombards her with Facebook messages and disturbing art while stalking her every move. Laura eventually unfriends her and distances herself, leading to a viral-video suicide and she finds herself unable to control her own Facebook account. Laura’s friends start dying in horrific and spooky ways and videos of their murders are somehow shared on her profile. Can she find out who or what is behind Marina before her entire life is destroyed….
    The film has a simple structure with several clichéd scenes of a person alone, hearing a strange noise, lights going out, and inexplicably walking toward the noise while we all wonder what the hell they are doing. However, the plot is well thought out, funny at times and the story keeps us engaged, keeping up the pace with a few clever twists to hold our attention. The performances are fine
    but Alycia Debnam-Carey is the stand out and her role carries the film. There are some nice stylish and interesting visual touches too. I liked the text and online chats being superimposed on the screen in bubbles (although this is not a new feature in movies) and the way Laura’s friend count – starting at 800 begins to steadily dwindle every time a video is posted on her timeline and people unfriend her. For those who virtually live their life online, this is the ultimate horror as popularity is purely measured in numbers. Many social media selfies and photos flash across the screen like a sort of collage giving us a glimpse of a typical teen life. I can’t see this being the next “Nightmare On Elm Street” but the Facebook fixation should have a certain appeal to younger viewers and it is more fun that you might expect. Having said that, I understand that nowadays Facebook is considered “lame” and Snapchat is the new thing where you can send half-naked selfies to anybody in an instant. So let’s just say we “Like”
    the movie but won’t bother sharing…..