Director: Simon Verhoeven
Cast: Alycia Debnam-Carey, William Moseley, Connor Paolo, Brit Morgan
Run Time: 93 mins
Opens: 28 April 2016
Rating: NC16 (Horror and Some Violence)
Friend Request, a film about a cursed Facebook account, serves up the scares generously. It’s briskly paced with only short periods of calm. In it, eerie music swells on the soundtracks. Blood pours out of bodies. Ghostly figures jump onto screen. So we scream. We shuffle. We grab the edges of our seat. What we do not do, however, is think about the film a second after we step out of the cinema.
Which is a pity. The film relies so heavily on jump scares, it forgets to fully tap on its premise’s potential. Social media as adolescent playground-turned-nightmare? It’s a zeitgeist-y topic that can expose and examine the anxieties of teenagers. Oh my god, zero friends on Facebook? How awful! (That actually happens to one of the film’s characters.) But the film decides to settle for the comforts of a conventional horror story instead of trying to get us to think of the ways social media governs our life.
Not that it doesn’t try. Friend Request revolves around Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey), a popular college kid who befriends Marina (Liesl Ahlers) a strange, socially awkward goth girl on Facebook (or at least what seems like Facebook). Soon, things take a turn for the worse, and a cursed social media account left behind by the latter causes Laura’s friends to die one by one. The grisly death scenes are genuinely terrifying, but the characters who die are so awful, you’ll hardly mourn their demise.
The film’s slightly sluggish setup in its first twenty minutes is also its most interesting, when we witness social media going awry and fracturing friendships. When the film takes a turn towards the supernatural, though, the appeal quickly fades; you’re left with a generic horror film that overdoes the loud bangs and ghostly appearances – one that, unfortunately, also has to content with unconvincing performances and ludicrous dialogue.
Summary: An uninspired if serviceably scary film.
RATING: 3 out of 5 stars