Film Review: Friend Request

Friend Request 1Frances Winston enjoyed this tech-chiller, but found some parts didn’t always gel.

Directed by: Simon Verhoeven –  Starring: Alycia Debnam-Carey, William Moseley, Connor Paolo, Brit Morgan, Brooke Markham, Sean Marquette, Liesl Ahlers

The posters and trailers for this make it look something akin to a tech-friendly version of 90s thriller, Single White Female, where a woman’s flatmate became obsessed with her, to the extent that she wanted to be her. Indeed, even the opening few minutes of this seem to set up the ‘crazy stalker obsessed by the person they have managed to befriend’ tale. So it comes as a bit of a surprise when this turns out to be a supernatural chiller rather than a technological thriller.

Laura (Debnam-Carey) is a popular college student who is extremely active on social media, sharing all aspects of her life. When a new girl, Marina (Ahlers) transfers and seems lonely and awkward, Laura accepts her friend request and begins to engage with her.

However, when she excludes her from her birthday party, Marina takes it badly, and Laura is forced to ‘unfriend’ her. When Marina subsequently commits suicide, Laura is guilt-ridden. However, that guilt turns to terror when Marina appears to be still active on social media. When Laura’s friends begin to suffer nasty fates, it looks like something far more sinister is going on.

Mixing the premise of up-to-the-minute technology, with a dark sinister ancient evil, is certainly an interesting premise. However, it becomes unintentionally funny at times, as the ideas don’t always gel smoothly. And the notion that self-absorbed media-savvy and tech-aware teens would suddenly accept the fact that there are supernatural forces at work, without being somewhat cynical, seems a bit of a stretch.

However, this does have enough jump out of your seat moments to keep you engaged. The main problem with this is inconsistency. Verhoeven has also added a couple of characters who are there for obvious comic relief from the darkness, but they often verge on the ridiculous, and often break the momentum of a scene. This is a difficult balance to achieve, and when in doubt, it is best to avoid.

The ending is somewhat predictable, and ultimately you leave the cinema slightly confused about what you just saw. Your tingly spine will dissipate quite quickly once you’re back in the real world, and you will definitely be able to sleep that might (although it might take you a few minutes before you are comfortable enough to check your social media again).

This is a bit like your average fairground ride. It’ll give you a thrill in parts while watching it, but afterwards you will struggle to remember them. It’s a good premise, which elevates it slightly from the average teen slasher/supernatural chiller, but it’s inconsistent.

Worth a look but not a multiple times watch.

In Cinemas April 22nd!

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