The scariest moment in Friend Request is when you look at the time mid-way through and realise you have to endure another 40 minutes of it. German director Simon Verhoeven’s first horror venture is as vacuous as he believes the current generation of internet addicts to be.
First year college student Laura (Alycia Debnam- Carey) has everything you could ever want. She’s smart, beautiful, has a blonde surfer/doctor boyfriend, and – most importantly – has over 800 Facebook friends. She’s also such a nice person, but as it turns out this trait will be to her detriment when she accepts a friend request from Marina (Liesl Ahlers), a lonely outcast who comes with a distinct amount of alarm bells to say the least.
From the moment she accepts the request – a warning to all you self-obsessed youngsters out there not to add every god-forsaken person you make eye contact with – her perfect life begins to unravel as her friends die and, even worse, her friend count diminishes.
Another addition to the tirelessly unoriginal supernatural horrors that are being churned out recently, Friend Request will be forgotten within hours of watching it – unless of course you’re a 15 year old and your idea of horrifying is having under 200 Facebook friends. Everything about it is underwhelming, from the over-the-top acting to the one-dimensional characters to the implausible storyline.
A fatal mistake in horror is to present your audience with an illogical plot – you’re trying to scare the viewers, not have them thinking “this would never happen to me” or “no sensible human would ever go into that clearly haunted basement”. The film-makers are trying so desperately to get the point across that young people are self-obsessed, fickle cretins that only care about having a big friend count that any ounce of realism is sacrificed. Laura’s friends turn on her ridiculously quickly, and with friends like that, who needs an enraged evil spirit hell-bent on ruining your life?
Tired jump-scare tactics are used throughout and are rendered useless because of the utter lack of atmosphere, not helped by the overly dramatic score. The one vague positive about the film is that it highlights how the internet can facilitate obsessive behaviour, but as a critique of the Facebook generation’s obsession with itself it falls distinctly short due to its oversimplified and disconnected view.
It’s easy to imagine Verhoeven as a grumpy old man, sitting on his porch and shouting at passing teenagers: “The youth of today are a disgrace to humanity!” He appears to have missed the fact that every older generation thinks that about the one that follows. Oh, and P.S, we’re all self-absorbed, it’s just a lot more obvious on the internet. Although it won’t be the worst film you ever see, Friend Request will not make you abandon all social media, but could make you less likely to befriend a lonely social outcast.
Friend Request is showing daily at the ODEON Kingston Upon Thames.