We follow college student Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey), the pretty, popular girl, with over 800 Facebook friends. The same cannot be said for serial hoodie wearing outcast Marina (Liesl Ahlers), who broods in the corner, stares for long periods of time at Laura, and has 0 friends on Facebook. Of course, the two have psych class together and a brief conversation leads to Laura feeling kind enough to accept Marina's friend request. The “friendship” is only cyber-deep, but Marina begins to stalk Laura, scaring her so much that she lies about not having a birthday party to keep her away. When Marina sees pictures of the party online, she takes it to heart and kills herself.
I think director Simon Verhoeven (no relation to Paul) is attempting to inject the horror genre with good scares and for the millennial crowd, but instead of actually saying something it settles for a lame plot. After Marnie's death her demonic soul possess her Facebook profile, which tortures and kills off Laura's friends, one by one. What has to be one of the more tone-deaf parts of a movie all year, is how after each death, Verhoeven displays Laura's number of Facebook friends dwindling down. That's right folks, Facebook friends are more important than anything in the world, including peoples lives.
There is not a lot going for Friend Request. The screenplay from Verhoeven, Philip Koch, and Matthew Ballen have thinly drawn characters. They are so weak, that I couldn't tell you the characters names without looking them up on IMDB, but I could describe them by their generic stereotypes. There's goofy boy (Sean Marquette), the jealous ex-boyfriend that's also a hacker (Connor Paolo, his character comes in handy later), the attractive current med-student boyfriend (William Moseley), the hot blonde girl roommate (Brit Morgan), the wild Rebel Wilson-like roommate (Brooke Markham), the goth girl (Ahlers), and our beautiful princess hero (Debnam-Carey). They all look and act like the next cast for a teen show on the CW.
Eventually, Laura starts to investigate why her friends are mysteriously dying off, leading her down the rabbit hole of Marina's past. Along the way, caring for Laura to make it through becomes hard to do, when her struggle feels so vain. To Verhoeven's credit, some of the characters deaths are done in an entertaining horror fashion, especially a scene where black wasps attack one of them, but this movie is constantly insensitive to all things related to people dying. Any sympathy for Friend Request goes out the window when not one, but two characters commit suicide, which is quickly followed by poorly timed jokes. I guess I should have expected this when, again, the moral of the movie is that losing your Facebook friends is more painful than death.
Friend Request is at times too easy to pick on. Although Debnam-Carey is a worthy lead, the acting is often less than subpar, the plot is thin, and these types of movies have been done before, but better. Frankly, for a 92 minute movie, I cared very little for how it ended. The effort is to capitalize on our social media craze, and some have been successful, such as Unfriended, Nerve, or Paranormal Activity, but those are more daring efforts. Friend Request is just a good way to determine who your real friends are. If they take you to go see this movie, you might want to think about unfriending them.
1 ½ Stars
Written by: Leo Brady
MOVIE: FRIEND REQUEST
STARRING: ALYCIA DEBNAM-CAREY; WILLIAM MOSELEY; CONNOR PAOLO; BRIT MORGAN
DIRECTED BY: SIMON VERHOEVEN
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 1 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
Friend Request is another horror movie attempting to capitalize on how humanity revolves around the addictive natures of social media. Instead of sending a message to audiences about these dangers, it settles for redundant jump scares, and a tedious death toll. This low-budget scare-fest is better suited for direct to VOD and has a cast of college kids so dumb you start to root for their disposal. Friend Request is an attempt to get the Halloween crowd a few weeks early, but it's the type of invitation you should just ignore.