College is hard enough, but the biggest difficulty of a young girl’s life is when she accepts A mysterious ‘Friend Request’ that turns her scholastic days into nightmare nights. In only his first American big screen presentation, writer and director Simon Verhoeven’s plight against social media revolves around Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey), a popular college girl who is very active on social media websites, sharing almost everything in her daily life with her more than 800 friends on Facebook. However, after accepting a friend request from an unknown girl named Marina, Laura soon becomes obsessed with Marina’s profile, and soon her friends begin to die violently one by one because of Laura’s prodding. Who is behind this devastation, and at what end will they take it? ‘Friend Request’ is rated R for horror violence, disturbing imagery, and adult language.
What is there really to say about a C-level horror movie that has been on the shelf for three years, and then finally released to the public with little to no accompanying trailers or promos? It’s everything I expected and more. ‘Friend Request’ had A chance to produce something decent, not great, but decent in its twisting of the revenge plot for A modern day social media exploit. Most recently we have seen this in 2015’s ‘Unfriended’, which was A much better film than this despite its own limited capabilities, but ‘Friend Request’ feels like the movie that we were supposed to get from that earlier film, and is now doomed for a mainstay in the straight to DVD shelves for the rest of eternity. From every aspect of the film’s production, it feels very underwhelming and uninspiring even for mainstream horror. I see plenty of these kind of movies every year, and it’s rare that I can’t find at least something to promote positively from within them, but ‘Friend Request’ is that exception to the rule, ushering in A shameful 91 minute commercial for Facebook in web design, without having the monetary value to mention the name.
The idea in execution is to narrate that our main protagonist is quickly having her friends wiped away in real life while coincidentally having her friends on Facebook unfriend her because of the viciousness that this ghost has been posting on her page under her screen name. Her family and friends grow aggravated that she would post these murders of her closest friends, therefore alienating her from everyone and making her like Marina. Without getting into personal feelings for how stupid and pointless this is, I can say that what doesn’t work in particular with this plot for me are IP addresses and how easy it is to locate where A computer with A campus encrypted code really is, and the overall absence of logic that makes you wonder why any of these braindead morons would think Laura would ever post something so incriminating to her own name is baffling. It makes absolutely no sense, but that’s the world that we’re living in with ‘Friend Request’ and all of its stretched imagination even for a horror film. On top of it all, even calling it a horror film is A stretch at times because this film does covet the abnormal R-rating for today’s standards, but doesn’t do anything remotely tingling or eye-catching to earn this mark. For my money, I’m guessing the language comes more into play than the violence because the death scenes aren’t even shown to us. We get the build-up, and then a cut right before we see how they’re done in. There is blood, but I wouldn’t say it’s anything that you haven’t seen if you’ve ever seen A horror movie in your life. This all makes the presentation of an hour and A half feel like twice that, and I literally couldn’t wait to finish my viewing.
This is also some of the very worst post production in A film that I have seen in my six years as A film critic. The editing is offensive on almost every level of measurement, cutting scenes far too soon from useful exposition, as well as offering some truly head-scratching moments that were left in the finished product. I can’t tell you how many times this film angered me to the point that I wish it would just pace itself in any of its scenes and just tell A story or exchange fruitfully. Most especially in the first act, each scene just rushes through like it’s trying to set A record for most scenes in a ten minute stretch. There’s very few establishing shots at the beginning of every scene, and it often feels like we’ve stumbled into A conversation between these friends where we’ve missed the first few lines. As for what is left in that shouldn’t, I stumbled on unintentional laughter on more than one occasion involving an unnecessary close-up on A character that was completely unflattering. There’s one scene between A friend of Laura’s who clearly has A crush on her, and when he sees her the camera closes up on his reaction, and it looks like he’s seconds from licking his lips LL Cool J style. Was there no possibility at A retake? Or was everything one-and-done because hell, no one cares about horror today except for jump scares, and yes there is plenty of that. The heightened sound enhancement to attain A few shrieks from the audience grew tired about thirty minutes in, when they have decided to waste it on things that didn’t warrant anywhere close to the dark alley beat down that my ears took. Seriously don’t watch this movie with the sound up, it’s testing on the ears and the speakers.
And then there’s the C.G effects, the bulk of which’s speed in fluidity and volume in texture make their respective sequences feel as hollow as the movie’s positive impact. I don’t expect award winning effects from ‘Friend Request’, so don’t get me wrong, but it would be nice for the lighting of said effects to even be on the same filter as their respective surroundings. When you see flying moths, those of which doesn’t even remotely resemble moths, you can’t help but wonder why the art department would even attempt this effect. This is clearly A film that is handicapped at every turn by its miniscule budget, so I would’ve rather the producers kept everything as cheap as possible, and just set the mood by promoting an equally haunting weight in aura to its scenes. C.G effects of this kind will do nothing but standout as an obvious counterfeit negative to the film’s visual levels, so just keep them on the cutting room floor.
But A horror film will be salvageable if it can manage to move you by gripping psychological performances that supplant A keen sense of the suffocating terror that envelopes them. It’s just unfortunate that this rule doesn’t come close to registering here, because the entirety of the amateur group of cast and crew are about as committed to this laughably bad dialogue as A child’s waning attention span. This again contributes to the one take mentality that plagues this film. As Laura, Debnam-Carey lacks the kind of ear-shattering scream or believability in vulnerability that makes her A credible protagonist. Because the film gives us the bare minimum of Facebook screenshots for her exposition, her character couldn’t come across as any more vanilla, and you actually hope that this film will break the void and kill off its main character early because of it. My least favorite character however, was Kobe played by Connor Paolo. Kobe is kind of the computer wiz of the group, so Laura depends on him A lot for help. The problem is that Paolo’s dry and lumbering delivery quickly makes him the subject of many future Youtube mock videos. An entirety of the film is between he and Laura, so you can imagine how thrilling 90 minutes of bland and dry combine for A bone chilling good time. As unappealing of A cast as I have experienced in 2017.
THE VERDICT – ‘Friend Request’ again muddles in the same kind of absurdity and redundancy that have lowered the curve of modern day horror. The acting in these vitally underwritten characters is laughably bad, the story rushes by far too quickly because of some truly jarring editing, and the visual specter of C.G effects to boot gives this an equally frightening presentation for all of the wrong reasons. Even the campy have standards, and this request should be blocked at any and every opportunity. I blame you Mark Zuckerberg.