In a society where people live their entire lives online, a horror movie that capitalizes on the overly socially connected for its story is not really a shocker.
One that manages to realistically leverage horror movie tricks and a creepy story concept to its advantage? Now that’s a whole other story…
College sophomore, Laura’s (Alycia Debnam-Carey) never met a picture she didn’t want to post, a party she didn’t check into, or a friend request she didn’t accept. She’s a popular girl cataloging her life in images, mixing and mingling with the masses, and sharing it all with her 800+ Facebook friends.
In a refreshing twist on the college horror movie trope, Laura isn’t a fake, a phony, or a superficial mean girl the audience is just waiting to see get her comeuppance. The movie doesn’t give you much in the way of character depth but other than seemingly a little shallow – but that’s no an unfair depiction of her type of college girl – She comes across as a genuinely nice person who decides to befriend an lonely girl. Of course, this is where the (ok maybe it’s just me) golden rule of don’t “friend” people who you aren’t actually your friends might’ve been beneficial…
Because’s new girl Marina is definitely not succeeding in the social swirl and twirl of college. She’s pale, socially withdrawn, suffering from a medical condition that makes her less than physically appealing; and she’s seriously, uncomfortably, awkward. A quick scroll down her timeline reveals she’s a talented artist with a decidedly dark and twisted bent to her work…and her posts. She has no friends in real life or online until Laura accepts her friend request.
Director Simon Verhoeven makes of the most of the modern college experience and on campus environment to build a believable foundation for Laura and her closest friends to live their socially significant lives against a gorgeous backdrop that makes the dips into the creepy feel as unsettling as the images of Marina’s numerous messages popping up to overlay the daily moments in Laura’s life actually would be if you were the recipient. This maybe a horror movie, but stumbling across an online stalker isn’t just good writing and it makes what happens next is more than a little believable.
Channeling her best Single White Female crazy meets Swim Fan obsessive, Marina essentially digitally stalks Laura bombarding her incessantly with texts and messages to the point Laura backs away from any contact and tells a little white lie to keep Marina from expecting to be invited to her birthday celebration.
But the more she withdraws, the harder Marina presses her suit (yes, I’m purposely drawing that comparison) the faster Laura runs in the other direction.
In a move any horror movie junkie could tell her is extra stupid, that Laura, unfriends Marina after a public confrontation and here’s where the dark and twisted happenings begin.
Friend Request doesn’t reinvent the wheel but as far as mainstream horror-lite, it’s more than does it’s job. There are jump scares that may catch some of the audience unaware and provide amusement to genre veterans. The ensemble cast’s chemistry comes together just as each is picked off one by one in increasingly disturbing and bloody ways. This movie doesn’t dig deep or offer more than a surprisingly fun ride just because it’s such a thin application of the magical realism of a good curse done right.
Gather a group of friends and catch an early show I promise, you’ll be amusingly creeped out enough to check your privacy settings. Friend Request is nowhere near the best the genre has to offer – or even the best it could’ve been – but the sheer number of idiotic decisions these people make is it’s own kind of amusing horror show.
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