First 2015’s Unfriended, now this — social media-themed horror is apparently a thing. Here popular student Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey) accepts a friend request from the mysterious Marina (Liesl Ahlers), a loner she barely knows. It turns out to be a bad idea — her admirer moves from obsessive cyber stalker to e-poltergeist as Laura’s friends begin to disappear, and not just from her Facebook feed.
German director Simon Verhoeven’s first horror outing, a film that syncs classic genre tropes with modern day personal privacy paranoia, has scares a-plenty, if not the talent to convincingly pull it off.
In a role that carries the film, Fear The Walking Dead’s Alycia Debnam-Carey stands out amid otherwise mediocre performances, proving a sympathetic protagonist in the face of her character’s (initially) ridiculously charmed life. Blessed with over 800 Facebook friends, the health conscious, party-loving Laura begins to see her friend count go down as the film’s body count goes up. It’s a surprisingly effective conceit that binds things together nicely.
The film loses likes thanks to Marina, the black-clad, hoodie-wearing cliché of a villain who’s almost laughable in an old-fashioned role that undermines its ‘down with the kids’ premise. Overacted, over-written and well, over-everything-ed, there’s nothing Liesl Ahlers can do to save such a poorly written character.
Friend Request keeps up the pace and throws in a few neat twists to keep the plot from stagnating.
Despite this unfortunate baddie, Friend Request keeps up the pace and throws in a few neat twists to keep the plot from stagnating. What’s more, the Facebook fixation will hit a note with younger viewers, even if the message that ‘self-obsession = bad’ is a little heavy handed.
And while occasionally clunky lines jar (“Unfriend that dead bitch” is a clanger not even Laurence Olivier could pull off), coupled with an overenthusiastic score and protracted final act, there are still some serious scares here.
It’s not likely to be the next Paranormal Activity but it’s far more engaging than the uninspired title suggests. Like.