Great horror movies like “Unfriended” and “Chatroom” showed audiences the chilling potential for utilizing social media to make an effective and terrifying experience. Simon Verhoeven’s “Friend Request” is the latest addition to this genre and is a disappointing waste of potential.
In “Friend Request,” we follow the story of Laura. Laura is a millennial college student with close friends, a caring boyfriend and many friends on Facebook (FB). Laura is living the happy life of a young adult with few great concerns in her life.
One day, Laura receives a friend request from a girl who sits in the corner of her psychology class. This girl is always wearing a hoodie, is constantly on her laptop, is very artistic, appears to be dealing with some depression and loneliness, and has no friends in the real world or on FB.
Laura accepts the friend request. Instantly this girl begins to constantly message her over FB, trying to video chat with her, tagging her in all of her posts and generally investing her whole being into her online “friendship” with Laura.
Laura is understandably taken aback. Through a series of events, they have a public confrontation that embarrasses and tragically leads to this girl committing suicide.
After this, strange things begin to happen to Laura and her real friends after this. Laura’s friends begin to die strange and torturous deaths at the hands of a demonic entity, and Laura takes it upon herself to stop the demon before it’s too late.
The beginning of the movie poses some compelling questions about how social media can control someone’s life and how some become more invested in their virtual identity rather than their real one.
However, satisfying answers to these compelling questions are sacrificed so that we can have another by-the-numbers horror movie, complete with useless friends to serve only as fodder for the demon, a research session about the demon, and an ending trying so hard to be unique that it ends up being unrealistic.
In addition, “Friend Request” steals a majority of the plot from far better movies like “Unfriended,” steals the twists and atmosphere of “The Blair Witch Project,” uses a nearly uncountable amount of horror movie clichés, and has an equally uncountable amount of cheaply produced jumpscares.
Rays of light that pierce the din of this muddled movie are that star Alycia Debnam-Carey does a fine job as Laura, the movie is decently shot and not painful to view, and that, while reliant on jump-scares, some of them are decently executed.
“Friend Request” is not scary. It is not effective, chilling, stunning or even interesting. “Friend Request” had the potential to be unique in the horror genre, but instead is now one among hundreds of sub-par horror movies.