The back half of 2017 has been filled with horror and suspense films. The remake of Stephen King’s “It” has been dominating the box office and bringing up grown men’s fears of clowns. Mother! has been confusing and angering critics and audiences alike. And now we have Friend Request, a horror movie about Facebook stalking to the weirdest degree and yet another story of how mean teenage girls are to each other. Sadly, the decrease in quality between It and this film is mighty large.
The film stars Fear the Walking Dead’s Alycia Debnam-Carey as a college student named Laura who lives the typical college life. She has a group of best friends who do everything together, a boyfriend with a promising future, and a loving family. A new girl begins attending classes with Laura. She is very shy and introverted with a very dark presence about her. Laura decides to talk to this new girl against the wishes of her friends and soon they become friends online. As soon as Laura accepts the request, the horror and regret begins to slowly take over her life.
Does anyone remember 2014’s Skype based horror movie Unfriended? I bet a lot of you either heard about it and thought it looked stupid or you just didn’t see it. The film bombed critically and was hilariously bad, but it did bring to light the seldom used “internet horror” genre. Although Friend Request isn’t related to Unfriended, both films share the constant use of jump scares and social media abuse. There are scenes in both of these films in which a main character is killed in a gruesome way while actively using a form of social media.
For the most part, this film was the hovering on the edge of average horror movie I was expecting, but there were some redeeming qualities to it. Throughout the film whenever something bad is about to happen to a character, a familiar sound is played. When a smartphone is on or near a speaker and it receives a text or call, a weird sound will play from the speaker. That same sound can be heard whenever the “horror” is about to happen, usually because the characters ALL have their phones out all the time. Along with that, some of the horror moments were executed surprisingly well and caught me off guard like a good horror film should.
Despite some infrequent highlights, the negatives are glaring. The first and most silly being, what was the social media website that everyone in the film was using? It looked identical to Facebook, but had no actual mention of a name. If a movie like Unfriended and get the rights to say Skype and Facebook, why couldn’t this film? I’m aware this is a petty argument, but for a movie about social media you can’t just insinuate Facebook and not say it. There is a part of this film that walks a thin line between acceptable and in poor taste. Without giving too much away, a character commits suicide and posts in online. If this was a made-up horror movie device it would be one thing, but sadly this happens and in recent years its happening way too much.
Friend Request is the first American released film for director Simon Verhoeven. Movies like this are typically a sign of trends to come. We’ve had trends for zombies, vampires, mental illness, torture, and even a strange new Groundhog Day horror movie trend (next month’s Happy Death Day). With all of these trends, does internet horror really sound necessary? Is it even scary or practical? Typically, these trend movies are adequate at best and continue to be made even with no demand for them. Who knows, maybe the next trend will be good horror movies?