Friend Request (2016)
There’s no point beating about the bush. Friend Request is a very derivative movie. The obvious parallel is 2014’s Unfriended (which, to be fair, whilst telling its story in quite an inventive, intriguing way, wasn’t hugely original in itself); both use social media as the vehicle for the horror, both involve the ghostly goings-on following a suicide, and both…I don’t know, contain ‘Friend’ in their title? I feel that comparison lost me somewhere along the way.
After local loner-outcast Marina inflicts her friendship on the popular Laura, she is socially shunned by her. Distraught, Marina commits suicide, and it’s not long before spookiness ensues and something starts killing off Laura’s friends one by one…so it’s up to Laura and her group of friends to work out what’s going on before it’s too late! (Shocked gasp!)
Although the idea of ‘social media horror’ reeks of bandwagon-jumping, I try to give it the benefit of the doubt; cyberbullying is a very real problem, and a film tackling such a topic could highlight how insidious and devastating it can be; a lot of great horror movies are, after all, known for capturing the specific fears and tensions of a time period. However, unfortunately, Friend Request manages no such feat. It’s a generic horror movie wrapped in the veneer of social media, and doesn’t really do anything new, or even anything particularly well.
It’s one of those films that tries to appeal to a modern audience, but plays out in a “how do you do, fellow kids” sort-of way. Generic references to ‘FaceChatting’ and the use of a Facebook clone that’s Definitely Not Facebook do nothing to help the suspicion that it was written by someone’s grandparents, which, in turns makes it pretty hard to take seriously.
This isn’t helped by the ridiculous script and bland characters; it’s hard to really care what’s going on when they’re all so interchangeable with each other. Fear the Walking Dead’s Alycia Debnam-Carey does what she can with her role, making what could have been quite a self-centered character into something vaguely sympathetic, but her friends are merely there as witch-fodder to help rack up the body count.
It’s not all bad, however. There are some really nice visuals in the animations that Marina has on her profile that are reminiscent of the tape from Gore Verbinski’s The Ring (though why she’s posting things to Facebook when she doesn’t have any friends to see them, I don’t know), and the actual death scenes are quite a lot of fun. But unfortunately these don’t make up for what is a very generic, forgettable movie that tackles things that other movies do a lot better.
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