Friend Request (2 stars)

Arabian Nights

Misguided social media-themed horror from writer-director Simon Verhoeven

Imagine if the haphazard heroes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia teamed up to write a horror about social media and you’ll be on the right tracks when it comes to this horribly misguided effort from writer-director Simon Verhoeven, co-written by Matthew Ballen and Philip Koch. It tackles internet addiction and loneliness in a university setting, where popular girl Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey) befriends class weirdo Marina (Liesl Ahlers) who has no mates on Facebook at all. Needless to say, things do not end well.

Opening with a lecturer announcing to his class that Marina has committed suicide, the camera zooms in on a shocked Laura and her friends, before rewinding back two weeks. Aimed squarely at the teen demographic, a happy-go-lucky montage of the gang’s fun and free lifestyle filtered through the lens of a social media site, complete with a friend counter moving upwards, points to where the film is headed.

There are unintentional LOLs aplenty as Marina’s obsessive behaviour in liking all of Laura’s posts is revealed in a clumsy way, and utterances like ‘unfriend that dead bitch’ are delivered with a stony face. Ultimately, it seems Marina is out to teach Laura a lesson in empathy by picking her friends off one by one.

The mobile phone interference sound effects are creepy and, although you can see them coming, a couple of the jump-scares are well crafted. The deaths are suitably gruesome, especially a gory sequence set in an elevator, but Friend Request lifts from too many other sources – most noticeably Final Destination – making it feel stale. The writers also make the fatal error of drawing the character of Marina in such a flimsy and downright ugly fashion that the serious issues the film is exploring get pushed to the wayside in favour of shoehorning in gimmicky frights.

General release from Wed 20 Apr.

Friend Request

  • 2 stars
  • 2016
  • US
  • 1h 32min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Simon Verhoeven
  • Cast: Alycia Debnam-Carey, Liesl Ahlers, William Moseley, Connor Paolo
  • UK release: 20 April 2016

Popular student Laura (Debnam-Carey) befriends class weirdo Marina (Ahlers) who has no Facebook friends at all. Things go downhill from there. Horribly misguided attempt at a horror flick about social media with unintentional LOLs aplenty; some creepy effects aside, it's stale and unoriginal and the character of Marina is…