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With: Alycia Debnam-Carey, William Moseley, Connor Paolo, Brit Morgan, Brooke Markham, Sean Marquette, Liesl Ahlers
Written by: Matthew Ballen, Philip Koch, Simon Verhoeven
Directed by: Simon Verhoeven
MPAA Rating: R for horror violence, disturbing images, and language
Running Time: 92
Date: 09/22/2017

Friend Request (2017)

2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This horror movie begins with an intriguing idea, exploring the pitfalls of social media, but quickly succumbs to a list of routine setups and payoffs, typical of most lazy, uninspired ghost stories.

In Friend Request, Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey) is an incredibly popular college student, spending time with her many friends and her new boyfriend as well as her enormous social media following. She notices a strange, new girl at school, Marina (Liesl Ahlers) and decides to accept her online friend invitation. Unfortunately, the lonely Marina takes things too far and begins stalking Laura.

When Laura rebuffs her, Marina commits suicide, and the video finds its way onto Laura's social media page. She tries to delete it, but the site mysteriously refuses to comply. Suddenly her friends begin suffering weird, ghostly attacks and even dying all around her and more videos are posted to her page. Her online friend count begins to drop. Laura realizes that whatever is doing this wants to make her feel just as alone as Marina felt.

Conversely, the similar Unfriended (2014) began with a less intriguing idea, but its execution was far more inspired and terrifying. As directed by Simon Verhoeven, Friend Request does incorporate some truly unhinged, disturbing artwork and animation, presumably created by the Marina character and posted to her page, but it's never used for anything other than just being there.

Mostly the movie consists of typical jump-scares, as well as the attempts to "solve" the haunting by traveling to the place it all began, etc. One character, a young man with a crush on Laura, going crazy over his unrequited love seems like a serious stretch, and other than being "friends" and having a good time, there's nothing to any of these characters. Fear the Walking Dead fans will be most disappointed seeing star Alycia Debnam-Carey having taken such an ill-fated step down.

Friend Request was released in Europe in early 2016 and then sat on a shelf for a year and a half before debuting in the United States.

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