Posted Apr 22 2016

Friend Request - This Facebook Nightmare Movie Neither Rocks Nor Not-Rocks. It Just Kinda Mehs Along

Dir: Simon Verhoeven

Starring Alycia Debnam Carey, Liesel Ahlers, William Moseley, Connor Paolo, Brit Morgan  

So when did we end up in the facebook-nightmare movie era? Guess it’s been building for awhile, so much so that Friend Request almost looks dated before it even begins. Not to say it doesn’t try and put the work in and make some effort.

Here we have a movie that asks the question – what would happen if the young people of the world found their laptops and phones turned against them? Well, they’d fall apart and everything would go to shit. Obvs.

Hot young girl on campus Laura has a cool boyfriend, cool (even though some of them are – daringly – overweight!) real friends, and over 800 (probably cool) online friends. Meanwhile, creepy hoody-wearing Goth kid Marina (a rather good Ahlers) has no online friends – which does kind of make you wonder why she bothers to be online in the first place. When Laura adds her as yet another friend, she unleashes a demonic stalker, and a tale of internet witches – replete with black bees and black mirrors (no, not the Arcade Fire Song; no, not the Charlie Brooker show) – and all of her real friends start to die, one by one, almost as fast as her supposed online ones unfriend her – surely the ultimate horror of the modern age (as the film quite wisely suggests.) In this film, teens walk down darkened corridors – alone – to meet their fate, you know, like they used to in teen horror flicks, before Scream started making it all ironic.

That said, the ghost of Scream does hang heavy here in the presence of Revenge’s Connor Paulo as the geek who knows the rules and can hack the world, a character who has become a cliché almost as fast as he’s being written. 

But Verhoeven’s film does try its best, and actually does manage a few decent shock-jumps, and plays with our expectations of others. It’s grisly in a way that makes you feel unnerved at times, and it’s not without merit. Ultimately, it’s an OK entry in what looks like it’s going to be an on-going sub-genre cycle – your screen-addiction-dysfunction syndrome will get you in the end. As such, it has a nice thesis and it’s own occasional moments. But no more.


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