Friend Request, 2016.
Directed by Simon Verhoeven.
Starring Alycia Debnam-Carey, Liesl Ahlers, William Moseley, Connor Paolo, Brit Morgan, Brooke Markham, Sean Marquette, and Lee Raviv.
A popular college student graciously accepts a social outcast’s online friend request, but soon finds herself fighting a demonic presence that wants to make her lonely by killing her closest friends.
Friend Request is an incompetent, ghastly looking, woodenly acted, unintentionally howlingly hilarious, nonsensical mess of a fright feature. However, that’s what is least bothersome, as right from the beginning the script from an unproven team of writers and poor direction from Simon Verhoeven sends the message to not associate with lonely, socially awkward college classmates as all that act of kindness will get someone is a nightmarish turn of events involving supernatural death. Sadly, it’s also another film that casually makes light of suicide as a revenge tool, here for the dumb reason that the popular, intelligent, and caring student that did choose to accept the friend request of a social outcast would not enable stalker behavior or reply to dozens of unanswered text messages sent in a row. Yes, these people are in college, maturity be damned.
It’s not long before the obsessed over student (I hate this movie so much I refuse to look up the names of the characters, especially considering not one of them is the least bit memorable) decides to do the unthinkable, unspeakable, heinous act of removing the gothic new pal from her Facebook friends list. This causes suicidal behavior, which is obviously ridiculous considering these two people have known each other maybe a week. To be honest, the material here is ripe for some potent social commentary on the true meaning of a friend vs the act of clicking the accept button on a web page, but for these filmmakers, it’s all about setting up a tasteless suicide to kick the horror elements into motion.
What ensues is a series of digital hauntings through Facebook (accounts are unable to be closed, videos of the suicide are posted to the protagonist’s feed) with the greatest tragedy of all being the dwindling number of friends for our heroine, which is, I shit you not, periodically tracked on screen with a counter. Apparently, I’m living life wrong as I couldn’t give one shit whether the number decreases or not on my own profile; half the time I don’t even notice. There are also very bizarre forest videos shared to the wall of our mentally unstable murderer from beyond the grave, and I would love to describe them but I haven’t the faintest idea how because I have no idea what the hell I was looking at most of the time. From a filmmaking perspective they seem to be videos utilizing cel-shaded animation, but what purpose do they serve besides being a lazy attempt at being creepy?
Don’t worry, as random side characters like the generic tech guru are here to help and crack Internet code in the fakest way possible. Our heroine’s boyfriend also gets jealous that she chooses to spend time with the longtime friend; I guess trying to figure out the reasoning behind supernatural hauntings makes one a neglectful girlfriend. Once again, these people are in college. The boyfriend even works in a hospital. Friend Request is also the kind of garbage horror film that features characters typing important phrases into Google only for the most prominently useful information to immediately pop up.
In the interest of fairness, I don’t go into this type of spooky schlock expecting thought-provoking storytelling, so all of the above could be forgiven if the film was actually scary. It’s not, instead opting exclusively for jump-scares. The effects and demonic designs are laughably cliché and as amateurish as the film’s direction (things begin in medias res for literally no reason other than to add unnecessary style), with CGI wasps generating fits of laughter every time they appear. The possession suicide deaths of friends are boring, compensating blood for creativity. By the ending, it was still difficult to grasp any cursory knowledge of why or what was actually happening, although it was clear as day that Friend Request was absolutely atrocious. It joins The Bye-Bye Man and Wish Upon to complete the trifecta of god-awful horror films released in 2017. No wonder it took over a year and a half for the movie to make its way to America after being released in Germany.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com