Film Review: Friend Request

'Friend Request' is either the funniest bad horror movie ever made or, more likely, just a bad movie that was never meant to be a comedy.
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It’s to be expected that as technology changes, someone will inevitably have a hair-brained high-concept idea for a horror movie based around it. While a phone ringing in the middle of the night is still as frightening as ever, the idea of being unfriended on Facebook might seem like the worst nightmare imaginable to a teenager these days.

That’s the general conceit of Friend Request, a movie that’s already played in many other countries before being picked up by the fledgling Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures, who seem to be making a name for turning trash into box-office gold.

The movie opens in a typical college classroom, where the teacher is informing his students, “Marina Mills has committed suicide.” Since we have no idea who that is, the story cuts to two weeks earlier as the main character, Laura Woodson (Alycia Debnam-Carey), spots a creepy Goth girl at the back of the same classroom. That is, in fact, the Marina mentioned earlier, and when she sends Laura a friend request on Facebook, Laura and her roommates notice the creepy girl has zero friends and lots of disturbing drawings on her page. Feeling bad, Laura friends her and almost immediately Marina gets clingy and starts stalking her new pal. When Laura doesn’t invite Marina to her birthday dinner, the lonely girl freaks out, so Laura unfriends her—which turns out to be a big mistake

Ten minutes later, we’re back at the opening, now knowing who the girl who killed herself was, but Laura’s problems don’t end there. Soon, a video of Marina’s horrific suicide shows up on Laura’s feed, offending some of her hundreds of friends, who begin to unfriend her. We know this from a graphic showing Laura’s friend count dwindling, which gets funnier every single time it pops up.  (There’s something similarly funny about our constant reminder that Marina has zero friends on Facebook, something unfathomable in this day and age.)

Apparently, death hasn’t stopped Marina from wanting revenge for how she was treated by Laura. The seemingly dead girl plots to leave Laura friendless as well, which is fine since Laura’s current friends are a mix of bland college-kid stereotypes and her ridiculously sexy pre-med student boyfriend Tyler (William Moseley), who is always there to offer his support. Marina starts to pick off Laura’s dumb friends with a combination of wasps, visions, black mirrors and supernatural elements that somehow allow her spirit to possess technology.

Certainly, we’ve seen this kind of thing done in horror movies before, but never used in such a dumb and mindless way. Director Simon Verhoeven doesn’t seem to know how to create a movie with any sort of consistent look or feel, so the tone is all over the place. When he isn’t trying to freak his audience out with cheap scares, he uses fake-out scares, which in some ways are even worse.

What Friend Request does have going for it is that it’s so bad, it’s unintentionally funny. It’s possible everyone involved with making the movie realized how silly the whole thing is, but even so, most of the D-level cast still tries to deliver every line as seriously as possible, which just makes everything they say even funnier.

The one exception is Shashawnee Hall, who plays the police detective on the case, whose only contribution is to spout one-liners in the face of these kids’ tragedies. “You really know a lot of dead people,” he tells Laura without a hint of irony; better yet, when he sees one of Laura’s roommates laid up in the hospital after being attacked by Marina, he says, “Someone is having a bad day.” Hall almost steals the movie as you wait to see what he’ll say and do next. Sadly, he’s gone almost as quickly as he appears, clearly having given up on a case that’s so ludicrous it’s not worth the time investigating.

Even so, Laura and her friends continue to play junior detectives by investigating Marina’s dark past, trying to figure out how to stop her. This leads to the most generic and ridiculous backstory, partially stolen from The Ring and far worse horror movies, and an incredibly unsatisfying and predictable ending.

Friend Request isn’t particularly original or scary, but it’s so unintentionally funny you might have a good time anyway. That’s not to say you should waste your money just to see how bad a movie can truly be.

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