Friend Request – You have been notified
Friend Request falls into a frustrating category of movies. Those that start off well – interesting premise, nice cast with some decent character development, and a general air of creepiness with an initial storyline that is not unlike Single White Female (1992). It feels like it’s going to be a slow burn, but one that will be worth it as we are on the verge of seeing something with some originality to it. Something we will remember. Something that might even leave a bit of a legacy within the horror genre.
And then the deaths start to occur, and from here we are treated to yet another by-the-numbers supernatural horror flick that will, in our memories, merge with so many others that have gone before and that we’ll almost certainly see again.
The story revolves around Laura (Alycia Debnam Carey from television’s Fear The Walking Dead) who befriends odd-girl-out Marina (Liesl Ahlers) and accepts a social media friend request from her. The acceptance of this friend request makes her Marina’s one and only friend, and Marina turns creepy stalker faster than you can say ‘Blocked’. Marina’s obsessive nature leads her to suicide, and from here the horror begins as, one-by-one, Laura’s friends are killed.
Laura uncovers Marina’s supernatural secret amidst a predictable sequence of events. These include the uncovering of wiccan ceremonies, the usual ‘investigation of unexplained deaths from years ago’ theme that has been done to death, her own decline as a social media presence, and finally a rather un-shocking ‘twist’ ending that really cheats the audience out of a satisfying climax and leaves us with little more to do but groan at the unimaginative nature of the conclusion. The death scenes themselves aren’t all that bad, they’re just not overly memorable, and are certainly not enough to lift the second half of the film out of the doldrums.
To be fair, Friend Request isn’t a bad movie. It suffers because it should have been a good movie. It promised us Ben and Jerry’s, and then served up vanilla. It keeps horror fans occupied while they await the big guns later in the year (The Conjuring 2 and Rings), but really fails to do anything else but kill time. At least 2014’s Unfriended, a similarly themed movie, tried to be different.