Friend Request Review


Delete your account.

There’s a long, long history in Hollywood of quite literally demonizing new fads and technologies in horror films like Feardotcom, Stay Alive and Unfriended. And just like the new movie Friend Request, these films are often laughably ignorant of why the internet is popular in the first place, how it basically works, and what really makes it really scary.

Friend Request is the tale of a college student named Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey), who has over 800 friends on Facebook, and who is perversely fascinated when she meets Marina (Liesl Ahlers), a girl who has none. Laura accepts Marina’s friend request but is repulsed when Marina wants to be treated like an actual friend. So after Laura tells Marina she isn’t having a birthday party — and then posts pictures of her birthday party on Facebook — Marina feels rejected, and kills herself.

There’s a recognizably human tragedy here, about the sometimes confusing distinction between social media and meaningful socialization. But it’s hard to see it under the film’s absurd story, in which Marina uploads her soul into Facebook and uses all her magical powers to make Laura lose her followers on social media. Marina also starts killing Laura’s friends, and in theory that should be scary, but after they die the movie shows the number of Laura’s followers ticking down, because that’s what really matters instead. You’d have to be pretty inhuman to be on this movie’s wavelength.

Friend Request doesn’t have the psychological depth or even the sense of humor necessary to pick social media culture apart, which is a shame, because anyone who spends any amount of time on the internet knows just how scary it can be. The problem here is that Friend Request thinks the technology is scarier than the people who wield it. When Laura asks a friend to figure out what’s wrong with her account, he discovers that the code for her Facebook has magic symbols in it, and that’s not disturbing. Stalkers are disturbing. Hateful rhetoric is disturbing. Sigils in an HTML code are just kinda goofy.

Meanwhile, Laura investigates Marina’s past and discovers that introverted people who have trouble making friends are, apparently, evil witches. It’s a pretty ironic perspective for the film to have, since Marina is a talented artist with actual interests outside of social media, and Laura’s “actual” friends are superficial cyphers who seem to have no interests outside of Laura’s problems and taking selfies. Which might have been a meaningful commentary about the shallowness of social media culture, except Friend Request doesn’t indict Laura and her friends, it indicts the woman whom their callousness drove to suicide. You stay classy, Friend Request. You stay classy.

The Verdict

Friend Request has no meaningful or satirical observations about human beings or the technology they now wield. And yet the film is so convinced of its own seriousness that characters yell things like “Unfriend the dead bitch!” without a hint of irony. It’s a sincere, and sincerely inept motion picture, and that combination makes Friend Request the exact opposite of scary. It makes it unintentionally hilarious.

Editors’ Choice

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