The 400-Word Review: Friend Request
By Sean Collier
September 26, 2017
As a journalist, I am barred from hurling projectiles — popcorn, soda cups, shoes — at movie screens. During my screening of Friend Request, I really hated that rule.
Friend Request — a movie that has nothing to say, and says it poorly — concerns Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey of “Fear the Walking Dead”), a well-meaning college student; she briefly befriends Marina, a stereotypical creepy girl (Liesl Ahlers). When the creepy girl starts being creepy, our protagonist pushes her away; unfortunately, it turns out that the creepy girl was a witch.
Oh, does that count as a spoiler? Good! Any action I’ve taken that reduces the odds that you will see Friend Request counts as a good deed.
Anyway — whereas most horror films (most films, honestly) about young people’s social lives end up punishing the popular crowd for rejecting the lonely outcast, in this brain-dead outing, ostracization seems to be the message. “Don’t talk to weird kids,” Friend Request would seem to say, “lest they turn out to be sources of supernatural evil! Better to hang around with your good-looking pals and shun anyone different!”
(I started hating this movie very, very early.)
Director Simon Verhoeven — a third-generation director (with no relation to Paul Verhoeven) — apes the style and rhythms of garden-variety ’90s slasher films (don’t think Scream, think Wishmaster or worse) with a dash of imitation-Blumhouse effects. Her friends start dying off, one by one! No one believes her! She’s isolated and needs to decode the mystical occult hoopla in order to save herself and those around her! Are there gonna be creepy children? Of course there are gonna be creepy children!
Unfortunately, no one told Verhoeven — who co-wrote the script with Matthew Ballen and Philip Koch — that those are the parts of ’90s horror that didn’t work. All this leads up to a climax so underwhelming that I thought it was a false finish; I should’ve known that Friend Request was too dumb for misdirection.
I suppose that in isolated frames, Friend Request musters some creepy imagery — spooky faces and such. Nothing seen here, however, cannot be eclipsed by the efforts of an industrious 14-year-old with Photoshop and a Tumblr account.
“I’ll show you what it means to be lonely,” our witchy woman whispers. I didn’t leave understanding loneliness. I did, however, have a newfound knowledge of what it means to be bored.
My Rating: 1/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark