Unfriended, I mean Friend Request, is a technological horror film that centers around a girl getting haunted by another girl through Facebook. Oddly enough, this film isn’t even worthy of the comparison to Unfriended, the 2015 Skype-based thriller (which I actually enjoyed). Though it’s a bit silly to address, the title actually does make more sense with this film, but what does that matter? This film is a garbage fire on wheels. I don’t think a better title could change that. Horror has been hot over the past two years, but it looks like we’re not going to be able to escape filth like this coming out from time to time. Hopefully, you’ll listen to this review and NOT see this film. That will be a step towards ending this vicious cycle.
Friend Request isn’t 100% awful, but it’s pretty close. Everything wrong with this film starts with the script. From the ridiculous plot to the sad excuse for dialogue, this script isn’t doing anybody any favors. The film centers around Laura, a girls so popular she has over 800 friends on Facebook (woah!). We’re introduced to Laura and all her friends using a montage of social media timelines, displaying a plethora of common character tropes. We’re then introduced to Marina, a social outcast with no friends who posts disturbing video clips on her feed. Laura feels bad for her, especially when she finds out she has zero friends. As a result, Laura accepts Marina’s friend request. This leads to Marina stalking Laura, being very forward, and eventually Marina confronts her in public and get’s embarrassed. Marina vows to make Laura feel lonely by killing herself live on social media, which will somehow give Marina the power to haunt Laura through the internet. I swear those aren’t spoilers. You can’t understand the absurdity of this film unless you have it explained. This script is so bad, ghost code is a real plot point of this film. Ghost Code.
The script is the root of the problem. Here and there are some good movie elements. Fear the Walking Dead star Alycia Debnam-Carey is solid in the lead role. You actually do care for her in the film. But everything good about this film is immediately ruined by the script. You care for Laura because you’d care for anybody in the situation. Laura reacts how any normal human being would to a stalker. Marina does have a tragic past, but you never relate to what she’s doing to Laura and her friends. Another highlight is the production, which isn’t half bad. The cinematography is decent and the effects for the imagery are up to par. Again, you forget about these positives when you’re seeing a bunch of shots you’ve seen in horror movies before. So much of this script is copied and pasted from the template of every slasher movie ever made. Literally, just insert ‘undead lonely witch’ in the “pick a slasher line” to land on Friend Request by way of generic horror film Mad Libs.
The script, and this film, ultimately suffers from a lack of purpose. I’ll give Friend Request a little credit, for a split-second they tried to have a message about friends and being alone. This falls apart because it’s hard to justify Marina’s actions because she’s a psychopath. Laura’s other friends aren’t much help, neither are the police, nor is ANY authority figure in this film. This trope can work when done intentionally, or maybe if they were trying to play on adults not relating to technology, however the adults in Friend Request are more oblivious than the parents of Derry, Maine. It’s just incredibly hard to care about anything in this movie. If you’re not trying to have a message, and you’re also not telling a coherent story, your film is going to have no stakes. That’s exactly what we have here. We have an empty film with no message, lazy scares (there’s literally a jump scare of a cat right in the camera lens), and quite possibly one of the worst screenplays ever written.
From the title to the premise to the trailer, we knew what we were getting with this film, but it still baffles me how uninspired it is. There are small flashes of potential here and there, small elements that indicate that they may have been trying. Friend Request could have been a unique commentary on society’s consumption of social media and wanting to feel accepted. Instead it got hung up on cheap jump scares and it’s formulaic plot. I’m not saying all horror films need to have a message, like Get Out for example, but this film took itself so seriously that it wasn’t even fun bad. This film wasn’t interested in spreading a message or creating interesting characters, it was interested in money. Friend Request is 90 minutes of loud jump scares, weird imagery, and ghost code. Save your money and attention span for something better this Halloween season.