This past year was a banner year for horror. Arguably, Get Out and It’s runaway success stories played a huge role in this success. Yet not every horror movie released in 2017 scared up box office receipts or critical triumph. Friend Request, a German English-language film produced in 2016 and shelved until late in 2017, took a critical drubbing. Aggregated reviews at Rotten Tomatoes are currently tanking at around 15%. About 15 minutes into Friend Request and my initial thoughts were that the reviews were a little too harsh. After another 30 minutes and I couldn’t agree more. Friend Request is yet another lazy, derivative the ‘Internet is scary’ film.
Laura, a popular and attractive college student, has it all. Good grades, friends, an amazing boyfriend, a supportive mother, and a vast social network of over 800 friends on Facebook. Things take a macabre turn for Laura when she receives a friend request from a reclusive social outcast, Marina. Taking pity on Marina, Laura accepts her ‘friend request’. But Laura is soon frightened by Marina’s obsessive messaging and monitoring of her social media. When Laura doesn’t invite Marina to her birthday party, Marina sees the tagged photos and commits suicide. However, even in death, Marina isn’t done with Laura yet.
Friend Request Has More Lazy Horror Film Tropes Than Side-Bar Ads
Friend Request is probably not as terrible as its Rotten Tomatoes ‘Tomatometer’ suggests. On some level, it’s at least watchable for its first 40 to 45 minutes or so. With competent production values and acting, I never felt compelled to turn the movie off. There are even two to three scenes able to prompt a jump out of even seasoned, cynical horror fans. Nevertheless, Friend Request is a lazy horror movie. The story and ‘scare set-ups’ are instantly recognizable to anyone who has watched even a handful of horror movies.
In addition, Friend Request is plagued by a mythology that allows Marina to do things not because they follow from established rules, but just to advance the story and generate scares.
A number of lazy tropes plague the film. First, there is the existence of ‘characters’ whose only function is to provide expository dialogue (Kobe, the computer expert). In Friend Request, you’ll find inept police officers that either fail to follow up on leads or demonstrate an incredible lack of deductive reasoning skills. In addition, Friend Request is plagued by a mythology that allows Marina to do things not because they follow from established rules, but just to advance the story and generate scares. Its threadbare story engages in the same sermonizing about the dangers of social media and the Internet found in countless horror movies, including Unfriended, The Den, and Megan is Missing. At least Unfriended had an innovative format with sustained tension.
A Cheap Horror Cash-In
Friend Request feels a lot like the original Annabelle and Ouija films. It’s largely a rote attempt to cash-in on the horror fad by providing safe PG-13 films for less discerning pre-teen audiences. Somewhere in Friend Request is a potentially interesting look at the vanity and self-indulgence of social media but sadly the film’s material does not do any of these themes justice and can in fact barely justify its own runtime. I would recommend declining this Friend Request.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: D+