Written by: Daniel Hadley
Directed by: Simon Verhoeven
Cast: Alycia Debnam-Carey, William Moseley, Connor Paolo
Going by the title you’d be forgiven in thinking this was a romantic comedy or teen drama, but as the title Unfriended had already been taken I supposed they were kinda stumped as there are only so many titles available when it comes to social media based horror. But if you look past the misleading title and the opening ten minute-Facebook posting montage, you’ll find this is indeed a horror movie.
Fear the Walking Dead’s Alycia Debnam-Carey stars as Laura, a popular college student who takes pity on social outcast Marina. After they spend a little time hanging out, Laura becomes a little unsettled by the tidal wave of Facebook messages and posts that Marina sends her way. With her birthday coming up Marina’s overbearing enthusiasm becomes too much and Laura – trying to spare her feelings – tells her that it’s just a private dinner between her and her boyfriend. But when the party rolls around and Laura’s Facebook wall is inundated with pictures of her and her friends, Marina vows revenge. And as any normal well-adjusted college student would, she evokes an ancient evil and kills herself in a dark ritual, transforming her into a spirit of vengeance that begins bumping of Laura’s friends one by one. Making each death appear as a suicide she posts the video’s of said brutal suicides on Laura’s Facebook wall. Yes you read that right: Marina transforms herself into the ultimate internet troll.
Ok so this movie is fucking stupid. But even with its evil internet ghost and Facebook’s seeming failure to moderate what is essentially snuff being posted on their website, Friend Request is not completely terrible. I actually kind of enjoyed it. The director showed some skill behind the camera, the acting was all on point and there were some impressive effects on display; the main crux of this movie is how, through these videos being posted on her wall, Laura is becoming a social outcast as they are posted under her name and Marina keeps blocking her comments. I mean seriously – for whatever reason Facebook cannot delete her account or remove the videos. Now there are many ways to deal with this. There are more ways of reaching people than just Facebook right? I mean it’s still totally possible to tell people what’s happening, you know, with your mouth. Or go to the college dean and ask them to make an announcement… but no, Laura instead does nothing but argue with Facebook customer services and pleade her case to a couple of idiotic police officers.
As mentioned, the acting is fine and the director clearly knows what he’s doing, so from a technical perspective the film is pretty good. Marina’s backstory was pretty interesting and in all fairness, other than Laura’s apparent inability to use common sense, she’s pretty likable, as are all of her friends. The characters here aren’t unlikable dicks which is always a good thing; too many horror movies paint there characters as assholes who evoke little more than a shrug when they are bumped off. Here I found myself feeling a little sympathetic as one guy repeatedly hurled himself against the walls of an elevator, which despite being an odd way to commit suicide was pretty brutal. I felt equal amounts of sympathy as each of Laura’s friends succumb to Marina’s dark influence.
Despite being the villain I could empathize somewhat with marina, and although her rage is misplaced, it wasn’t hard to understand why she felt betrayed. Being ostracized by everyone around you can lead to one being a little over enthusiastic when someone finally shows you some kindness. And when Laura grows wary and decides to distance herself, it made sense, so when Marina becomes a Psycho internet ghost and starts blasting her Facebook wall with videos of her friend’s suicide (so stupid) I did actually feel for her. Even though she had multiple options open to her to get the word out as to what was going on.
As I was watching I thought it would have been interesting if Laura had gotten the press involved. I mean it’s pretty news worthy right? A rash of mysterious suicides, the footage of which is being posted by a mysterious hacker on an innocents woman’s Facebook wall. Laura would have been vindicated and Marina would have had to switch up her game. Unfortunately Laura keeps her mouth shut and instead of taking one of the many, many options available to her, she watches as everyone around her turns their backs believing her to be a sick weirdo with a very public fetish for suicide (seriously it’s so stupid). But despite all of its shortcoming I didn’t hate this movie.
If I hadn’t made it abundantly clear by now I think this movie is kind of ridiculous, but it’s not terrible. Not by a long shot. If you can look past the main character’s total lack of common sense, which I did for the most part, you’ll have good time with Friend Request. If you strip away all of the idiocy it’s a pretty effective horror movie. If Facebook had been removed from the plot entirely and the story focused more on the mental toll of losing all of your friends to a seemingly unstoppable supernatural force, this could have been a great little movie. Unfortunately that isn’t what we got. But even with its ludicrous premise I still think there is some merit here.
Give Friend Request a shot, it’s stupid but you know what, a little stupidity never hurt anyone.