Tis’ the season to be Haunted, putting everyone in mind of eating truck-loads of garbage food, donning their costumes, and late nights in watching their favourite Horror movies. It is a damm good tradition that will never cease to be fun – although don’t expect to be adding”Friend Request” to that favourites list anytime too soon.
Directed by Simon Verhoeven, this will give you a few vibes of the movie “Unfriended” if you ever caught that. Essentially the basis being an addition of social media to a horror story for… some reason I’m sure exists but can’t fathom. For this story, a normal poular white girl in her very normal and white college life happens across a hooded girl who sits at the back of the classroom. Seeing she has no friends on Facebook, she decided to add her. One thing leads to another, with the result of the hooded girl coming across too creepy and clingy, and being shunned away. Her suicide leaves the perfect white college girl feeling (rightly) guilty, and so begins the hooded girl’s terror of her previous friends from across the void. Or computer screen.
Look, I’m sorry if I can’t exactly find the strength to write a riveting synopsis, but having a story revolving around how many friends someone has on Facebook, while at the same time attempting to portray the downsides of Internet addiction, is utterly ridiculous. You don’t try to warn about alcoholism by providing free beers, and right from the start that was the feeling I got from the narrative. And having these college students leading perfect little lives and living in what looked like a Penthouse, only makes it all worse.Being grounded is one thing this film has absolutely no idea how to do.
At the same time, like “Unfriended” the main character of Laura (Alicia Debnam Carey) along with her friends, are pretty horrid examples of humans. Death is something they seem to just swat away like a Farmville game request, and their response to the strange, unknown new friend of Laura’s feels more at home in some cliche 1990’s high school sitcom. It could have been fixed so easily and quickly, if someone just TALKED to this new person. (Marina, played by Liesl Ahlers) But instead we see them just start stupidly at their screens, wondering why their perfect worlds had to be so rudely interupted by oh… someone who was feeling lonely.
Okay, I know you’re ready to walk away from this review that looks like it will just shit on every element of the story. But actually, I DO have something to praise. The animation work that is shown to be Marina’s art is really cool, and by far the most interesting thing on display. An early Tim Burton style mixed with a Metal romance ballad music video. The animation is even brought to life nicely enough. It almost feels wasted on this plot to have something that must have looked so cool in the storyboarding, but, I’m glad it was here to perk my interest for a while.
As for the aspect that would have drawn you to this movie in the first place, the horror? It’s okay. There’s definite influences from “The Grudge” dropped in here and there, and some of it has signs of creativity, but there’s so little investment in the characters from the first place, that trying to make us worry for their survival fails to take effect. Shit, after their behaviour in the first act, I was rooting for their dismemberment. It’s all kind of average with little that will take you by surprise, and the finale felt like the movie as a whole just shrugging its shoulders.
You can also add attempts of comedy (especially with the two cops) that falls so flat on its ass I nearly laughed at the lack of any effort whatsoever by the writers. I mean, what more can I say? “Friend Request” is a criminally mediocre horror story, that just happened to have some kind of cool animation work stapled in as an attempt to show creativity. Too bad they had nothing else up their sleeves to balance that out with, and the confused attempt at a message in relation to social media was a joke to sit through. It is indeed better than “Unfriended”, but don’t take that as being much praise at all.
Thanks for reading!