by Rachel Willis
With a film like Friend Request, the task becomes creating fear out of something benign. In this case, how can a friend request on Facebook be scary? Director Simon Verhoeven tries to answer that question.
College student Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey) has a perfect life. Instead of opening credits, the film begins with a montage of scenes from Laura’s Facebook page: pictures with friends, comments from her adoring 800+ Facebook friends, even hints of a love triangle. While there could be an element of not everything is as it seems on social media, the movie doesn’t tackle this. What we see is what we get.
Into this mix comes Marina (Liesl Ahlers), a shy, lonely woman in Laura’s 200-level psychology class. Because Laura is a nice person, when Marina sends her a friend request on Facebook, she accepts. Not only does she accept the request, she takes the time to try to get to know Marina. But because this is a horror movie, in less than two weeks, Laura regrets her decision.
There are a number of ways Friend Request could go, (Marina is perfect Single White Female material) but it takes a supernatural turn. After a falling out between Laura and Marina, Laura and all of her closest friends start having nightmares. Most of the dreams are comprised of jump scares. It works the first few times, but after the third or fourth one, they stop being effective.
At times the film is unintentionally funny. It’s hard to maintain a level of horror around Facebook. If the film had embraced the silliness of its premise, the audience could have been treated to a horror comedy that warns against the danger of too much screen time, but sadly, the film tries to maintain the scares beyond what is reasonable. The suspension of disbelief is often non-existent, as a slowly loading screen generally inspires more irrational rage than outright terror.
Friend Request does follow some interesting ideas, and the actors are mostly up to the task of carrying the film’s weaker elements, but too often there’s a sense that no one’s quite sure how to make Facebook scary. Perhaps if they’d shown the real ways Facebook sucks the life out of its users, they could have had a truly horrifying tale.