Friend Request (2016)

1:36 PM

Unfriended 2.0
 Friend Request is directed by Simon Verhoeven (Men in the City) and stars Alycia Debnam-Carey (The 100, Fear the Walking Dead), William Moseley (Narnia, The Royals) and Brit Morgan (She Wants Me, Brotherly Love). "When a college student unfriends a mysterious girl online, she finds herself fighting a demonic presence that wants to make her lonely by killing her closest friends". So Unfriended kicked off this new wave of technological horror films last year, is Friend Request just a rip off or can it stand on its own?

Horror films have to be my favourite type of film to go and watch - you pretty much know what you're in for (which can also be a bad thing) and the film only has to succeed at being scary to be effective. I'm not saying horrors are the best films that are released, they are just always a good time. Friend Request is one of those smaller, more independent horrors that you don't really know about until it pops up in the cinema. It is the first film to capitalise on the critical and commercial success of Unfriended by making a horror all about technology and the internet. I have to say, I was expecting to love Unfriended and was really disappointed but I wasn't expecting to enjoy this and found a lot to like - Friend Request Accepted. 

The story for the film is pretty straight-forward - there is a weird, creepy girl who is pretty much a stalker at first and then she commits suicide and haunts a friendship group - the resemblance to Unfriended is very strong, both even share a character named Laura! I thought the film lacked character development majorly - we actually end up finding a lot about Marina but we never find much out about our protagonist, Laura. This is a little annoying as the writers could have made that character so much more relatable so the audience would care about her every move. However, like most horrors, you don't really care about her as you don't really know much about her at all - other than the fact she has hundreds of Facebook friends because she just accepts requests from anyone - has she not heard of online safety? All of the secondary characters are also very one-dimensional - in fact, you know absolutely nothing about any of them. The writing is definitely something that lets this film down - there is no major twist to make it exciting and the characters are all very one dimensional which makes them hard to relate to. Another issue I have is the way the characters were killed off was very formulaic and became predictable - even though this almost creates a house style and sense of iconography for how people are killed in Friend Request, you could tell what was going to happen as soon as each scene started. 

Friend Request took a leaf out of the book of the Insidious films and tried to tackle complex ideas in a horror environment. I don't think the ideas were ever touched upon enough but it was nice to see the film try and cover issues surrounding online safety and also suicide. Both of these were never directly addressed - the characters are never informed or reminded of online dangers and the whole suicide almost comes across as something to move the story along - 'instead of having a human stalk her, we can have her ghost as audiences love supernatural scare factors!' - you can hear the movie executives saying this. All I can say is Friend Request tried but the ideas never really go anywhere. 

This film is scary but on a one dimensional basis. I don't feel haunted now after watching the film but during the film, pretty much every jump scare was effective. Friend Request was packed full of jump scares and does try to throw around some other horror elements such as witchcraft which never really come across as that scary. However, this film definitely isn't afraid to be gory as the death scenes were very uncomfortable to watch.  If you want to see a film to be scared, see Friend Request as you will be scared - it just won't have a psychological impact that sophisticated horrors such as The Conjuring had. 

The acting was solid - nothing special but I do think some of the age-casting was a little unbelievable - some of those actors do not look like your typical college student age. Alycia Debnam-Carey leads the cast is good but like everyone, I wasn't wowed by her, it was just a solid performance. I have to admit though, there was nobody in this film with a terrible performance so it has to get credit for that. The only problem is that these are still dumb horror movie characters - they decide to record every thing on their phones whilst they are being haunted or about to die - I'm sure this isn't what an actual person would do in this type of situation. 

Something very strong about Friend Request was its editing - it was done very well, especially the opening sequence. I liked how the real footage merged with on-screen computer footage, it was just done really smoothly. 

Friend Request is a pretty solid horror film - it will frighten you, but only briefly as you can just leave the cinema and get on with your normal day. The acting is mediocre and the characters are one-dimensional. This does stand alone from Unfriended - it has clear differences but the marketing just wanted to play up the connection. If you like horrors, this is worth a watch. Don't expect anything new though - I'll give it credit as it does try to stretch into complex areas but doesn't really go there. I said it in 2015, I definitely think FOLLOWED is next. 

3 STARS
C+

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