Friend Request may look like a lazy, low-effort cyber-thriller churned out on the cheap, but if there’s one way in which the Simon Verhoeven-directed (no relation to Paul) film defies expectations, it’s with a surprisingly high standard of production and rock solid performances. The script? Not so much.
Laura Woodson (Alycia Debnam-Carey) is a beautiful and popular college student who loves documenting her life on social media, and she ends up making friends with a shy loner, Marina (Liesl Ahlers). However, Marina gets jealous of Laura’s popularity and, in a spiteful act of revenge, commits suicide via live video link. Marina’s spirit then haunts Laura, takes over her Facebook account and threatens to make her the most unpopular girl at college. Yup.
No points for mocking the premise, because this one’s such an easy target and invites subterranean expectations from the outset. It’s an inferior younger sibling of the surprisingly effective recent social media horror flick Unfriended, with little regard for compelling character development or even half-decent scares. You need not be a horror vet to see every jump and plot wrinkle coming a mile off.
That said, the movie is surprisingly well-made considering the material and lack of known cast or crew: Jo Heim’s cinematography combines with the efforts of a trio of editors to make the movie crackle visually, while Gary Go’s score cleverly encompasses mobile phone interference into its soundscape.
Though the actors admittedly don’t have much to work with, the performances are certainly above the material; Debnam-Carey is an appealing lead with a certain star quality, and nobody embarrasses themselves as would be easy to do with such rickety lines of dialogue.
Also, there is an occasional satirical nod towards the ubiquity of social media in the lives of youngsters, though this isn’t developed in any real depth, and so feels at odds with the increasing presence of blandly silly supernatural thrills as the pic wears on. This film offers little reason to reside in your memory, but again, it’s not the one-star disaster it could easily have been with a lesser cast and crew.
Friend Request is in UK cinemas now