It’s no surprise that recent years have brought countless horror films based around Facebook - with 1.71 billion monthly active users, it’s a relatable subject that most of us can appreciate. We’re all familiar with the workings of the platform, and we’ve all encountered the fucking strange people who lurk about on the site. And let’s face it, we’ve all been involved in online stalking – either as the stalker or stalkee…Anyway, the point is Facebook films sell because people know Facebook. “But I saw Unfriended”, I hear you cry, “why do I need to see this?”. Well, you don’t, quite frankly. But hey, while you’re here, let’s discuss Friend Request…
Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey) is one of the most popular students at her college and enjoys an active social life – particularly on her Facebook, where she has over 800 friends. She receives a friend request from the quiet, introverted and somewhat gothic Marina (Liesl Ahlers) but as their friendship becomes a little uncomfortable, Laura unfriends her and removes her from her life. Marina promptly takes her own life, and her demonic ghost might just be the reason Laura’s friends start dying increasingly violent deaths. Creepy, right?
I know what you’re thinking. You’ve seen this shit before. I won’t lie, there’s nothing new here. Nothing remotely fresh or original in the cliché-stuffed plot or formulaic delivery. In fact, it’s basically Unfriended again. So, what is there to possibly discuss?
First of all, the film’s message is a bad one. We basically walk away from this film thinking “I better befriend every single lonely introvert I see because if I don’t, their evil spirit will kill all my friends and ruin my life”. Hmmm. Marina is a dark and troubled character who needs help, but the film paints this sort of person as an evil freak who is out to get you. This isn’t the message that Hollywood should be setting. These sorts of people deserve better. There’s a reason they are the way they are, and to suggest it’s because they’re witches is just offensive. This film isn’t going to do them any favours – if anything, the opposite of what I said above will happen…People will just avoid them even more.
In fairness, the first 20 minutes of the film was pretty solid. The opening montage effectively showed the positive side of social media, while the animated sequences of Marina’s dreams are effectively done. Liesl Ahlers puts in a solid performance as the troubled Marina, although her behaviour does get a little bit stalky and uncomfortable – which puts the viewer in a difficult position. Do we agree with Laura for unfriending her and ignoring her, or do we think she should’ve made more of an effort to help the lonely outcast? Who knows…and more importantly, who cares? Fuck this film. Either way, even when stalky introverts act like this it’s not because they’re FUCKING WITCHES.
Still, some elements of Friend Request were refreshing. Laura’s friend group isn’t made up entirely of ‘hot’ girls – one of her ‘besties’ Isabel (Brooke Markham) is just a normal-looking young lady, and it’s good to see. She’s no less attractive than the other characters, but she is a realistic looking character. She isn’t setting a silly example for the viewer, like most female horror characters do these days with their pencil-thin waists and enormous chests...Still, leading lady Alycia Debnam-Carey is pretty decent here. The whole cast are adequate, really - there are no noticeable weak links. Another positive, without giving anything away, is that Friend Request doesn’t have a happy ending. The film ends on a bleak and unforgiving note, which makes a change. It’s just a shame the film must close with a fucking dreadful piece of dubstep. We get it, you’re edgy and hip. Otherwise, Gary Go’s score is pretty good.
Friend Request is just a big bowl of ‘meh’. There’s nothing particularly offensive about it, but nothing to write home about either. It’s just instantly forgettable and unoriginal. Expect a large helping of ineffective and predictable jump scares, thinly written characters, offensive stereotyping, and a sinking feeling of “why am I watching this” throughout. If this one sends you a friend request, reject it. But if you take pity on it and give it a watch, you could do worse. 2/5
Friend Request at CeX
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