I’ll be honest, when I first saw the trailer for Friend Request, I chuckled. Not only did it seem like a ridiculous concept to have horror stem from social media, but my mind flashed back to Unfriended – the horror film set entirely on Skype. While watching the trailer, I came to the sudden realisation that this was a whole new sub-genre of horror film. The internet was a whole new spooky playground for gruesome tales to unfold. My eyes rolled, naturally.
Surprisingly, while expectedly ludicrous and flawed, Friend Request turned out to be undeniably entertaining.
Spooky internet activity
Friend Request follows American college student, Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey). She has a good life, surrounded by a loving group of friends and has met the man of her dreams. However, after taking pity and befriending a lonely student named Marina (Liesl Ahlers), Laura receives a friend request from Marina on a social media site.
However, Laura is this girl’s only friend. Marina begins to harass Laura and after not being invited to Laura’s birthday get-together, Marina commits suicide. Spooky internet activity and mysterious deaths begin to happen and changes Laura’s life forever…
Does it scare?
Ignoring the social media elements of the film for a moment, Friend Request is basically a supernatural slasher. If we are to go even more bare bones, its a horror film. So, does it scare?
Well, the simple answer is yes – to a certain extent. By no means will it stick with you for days after and keep you scared of the dark, but it manages to make you apprehensive enough while watching. However, the main flaw in the scare department is that the film fails to build any suspense.
Its main method of scaring the audience is through jump scares, when something pops out and/or makes a loud noise. While this is no doubt an effect way to scare an audience, it is overused to the point to where it becomes tedious and predictable.
Without giving too much of the plot away, many of Laura’s friends are killed throughout the film. Initially, the ways they are killed are quite interesting and inventive, the first being especially brutal. But, as darkness falls and the spooky atmosphere returns, you know that a character will be killed and it just becomes rather predictable and dull. No shocks to be found here.
Questions left unanswered
Plotholes and logical anomalies will become apparent throughout the film too. These include you questioning why none of the characters turn the lights on when they hear a creepy noise, why a social media site would not take down the inappropriate content being uploaded from no identifiable source, and why only two detectives would work on a case involving a string of mysterious linked deaths. So many questions.
All these minor gripes aside, one issue you may find with Friend Request are the gang of characters. They are all too nice. There is a real missed opportunity to allow the audience to see horrible characters get their comeuppance. Perhaps, after driving the unfortunate victim to suicide. Instead, it is the other way around. Not an essential element to the story, but one that would have added to the fun factor of the film.
While flawed, Friend Request does retain positive factors. The acting is rather good and really that is ideal for this film. Horror films with fleshed out and depthful characters are often few and far between. At the very least, the somewhat natural banter between characters creates a realists vibe in some scenes. However, out of the cast, Connor Paolo as computer geek Kobe stands out. He is so charismatic and likeable, offering a funny moment or two.
The film also has some creepy visuals and some great make-up affects. The use of natural locations, such as dorm rooms and factories, adds another layer of horror due to the creepy events taking place in such realistic surroundings.
Friend Request is competently directed by Simon Verhoeven and the intergrations of security camera footage are very well-done. Nightmarish sequences are also nicely done and, thankfully, the social media takes backseat for the majority of the film.
Expect to find jump scares galore and a somewhat creative social media-based horror in Friend Request. It is not revolutionary to the genre or has any real bite to its horror elements, but it offers a surprisingly fun and rather enjoyable ride. It’s a low-fat horror film – it quenches the thirst, but doesn’t excite the taste buds.
Watch it, enjoy it, move on.
Have you seen Friend Request? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!