Friend Request is directed by Simon Verhoeven, the grandson of German director Paul Verhoeven – as opposed to the famous Dutch director Paul Verhoeven (I’m confused).
Friend Request is the latest entry into the surprisingly prolific ‘Facebook slasher’ sub-genre, whose very existence I find puzzling – not least because in 2010, I came up with a premise based around the idea that deleting people on Facebook makes them disappear in real life.
A similar concept was used in the 2014 Christmas special of Black Mirror. I’m not accusing Charlie Brooker of stealing my idea, though he’d be well within his rights given how much I’ve plagiarised from him. Anyway, back to the World of Bullshit.
The film follows a group of teenagers literally too ghastly to live. Enter Marina (Liesl Ahlers), whose greasy hair and pale skin are horror movie shorthand for ‘evil’. Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey) is the nice girl, because she accepts Marina’s Facebook friend request and treats her with marginally less disdain than everyone else. But after Marina kills herself, Laura’s friends start mysteriously dying, and worse, deleting her from Facebook.
Mark Kermode (who quite likes the film) recently blogged about this social media horror trend getting old fast, and having just sat through Friend Request, I’m inclined to agree. It’s vastly inferior to last year’s Unfriended, whose USP was that it took place entirely on a computer screen.
Friend Request desperately lacks the authenticity of Unfriended (I’m still confused), and has a similarly limited shelf life. Films like this will become obsolete a few years down the (time)line when Facebook no longer exists – unless you’re reading this in a Facebook-controlled future, in which case I have nothing but respect for our corporate overlords.
Of course, these films aren’t built for longevity; they’re Netflix-bound and proud of it. The dialogue is so bad that it comes as no surprise to learn that most of the writers are German. The actors are so nondescript that you could replace them with houseplants and their own parents wouldn’t notice the difference.
The “characters” live in the kind of spacious apartments that no student has ever lived in (not even Mark Zuckerberg) and compulsively check their phones every five seconds. Ironically, you’ll be doing the same throughout the movie, which ticks tediously towards Laura’s social death as she loses Facebook friends. The film thinks this is the worst thing imaginable.
The cause of this ostracism? Laura’s profile becomes possessed and starts uncontrollably posting obscenities; a curse that usually targets British politicians. On this point I sympathise, having once spent an entire week as an unwitting cyberbully, due to what I believed at the time to be a technical glitch, but I realise now was probably a demon.
There’s very little in this Facebook slasher to ‘like’. As with any unwanted Friend Request, you should either reject it, or pretend you haven’t seen it.