Director: Simon Verhoeven
Cast: Alycia Debnam-Carey, William Mosely and Connor Paolo
Running Time: 92 minutes
Release Date: April 22nd
While there is no shortage of bad films out there to see, it is rare that you can find one so atrocious, that it goes full circle and ends up on the other side, a small work of wonder. The good bad movie, a gem of cinema, it is the unintentional comedy that garners more laughs than most actual comedies – all the more hilarious when you realise this to be the case. Friend Request is just that type of flick. Directed by Claudia Verhoeven, the son of Michael, this is a truly abominable work which appears to plagiarise the American remake of Hideo Nakata’s Ring, but to its credit, only steals 85% of the storyline. The other 15% is divided up into three equal thirds; one part spec-script for Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, another for a single crazy death scene, and the final, for what could be described as the worst ending ever conceived, the climax to a ghost story told by a twelve year old to a group of ten year olds on a sleepover.
Striving to achieve the title of modern tech urban myth, but ending up a schlocky ironic film poster in the IT Crowd basement, Friend Request intended to make a point about internet addiction, and how artificial relationships are these days. Laura is the most popular girl in her high school. She has over 800 friends on a social network, which we are not legally allowed to say is Facebook. Her boyfriend looks like a Josh and talks like one too. Whenever her friends gather, the whole world turns into a state of casual, beautiful fun filtered through Instagram, or idealised like a Kodak commercial. Her life is great, it is just sexy people, not doing much, but looking good, and because of this, a loner known as Marina becomes obsessed with her.
Making eyes during a lecture in their college – the subject of course being internet addiction – this brief acknowledgement moves Marina to add her on Not-Facebook. Laura becomes her very first friend, despite Marina having been on the social network for quite some time. Sending Laura a hundred messages a minute, this endless glut of “Hey”, “U there”, “U angry?”, “Lol sry that sounds weird”, “U there?” and “Hey”, this onslaught becomes intolerable. What is worse though is the fact that when Laura clicks onto Marina’s homepage, the pictures posted are horrendous, both for their angst laden Deviant Art pseudo-Gothic quality and the actual content, which is dismembered bodies, mutilated children and eerie videos of normal things done abnormally.
Determined to ignore this caricature Goth girl, Laura tries to escape for a night to enjoy her birthday, but Marina learns that she was uninvited, and so the barrage of “U there” increases. Desperate for a moment’s peace, Laura un-friends her praying that this act will allow her to resume a state of normality, experienced through a Sierra lens. However, as a direct consequence of her being unfriended, Marina decides to hang and immolate herself simultaneously.
Filming the entire suicide, footage video mysteriously appears on Marina’s Not-Facebook page the very next day, causing shocks to resonate throughout the school. Yet the disturbing news grows evermore worse as the video also shows up on Laura’s profile, with her appearing to have posted it, while also tagging all of her friends in the description.
All of a sudden, Laura is being unfriended left, right and centre, and to free herself of this torment, she attempts to delete both the post, and her own profile. Marina though, has other plans and begins to haunt Laura in her dreams, before then deciding to pick off each friend who was in attendance at the controversial, but bland birthday. As each of her closest friends appear to kill themselves too, all in front of a variety of cameras, the footage from which all ending up on Laura’s profile, her newfound reputation as a twisted psychopath motivates her to find a solution to this crisis.
Embarking on a journey to find out who exactly Marina was, and why she is acting in this way, what she witnesses and uncovers will likely fail to move anybody, bar the legal team over at Rasen, the company which produced Hideo Nakata’s Ring. From the stark visuals, which appear in videos before popping up in real life, to the fact that it pathetically attempts to use the same idea of an accelerating technological world coming into conflict with ancient myths, this is a shameless rip-off, mediocre to the point of being heart-warmingly laughable.
Every obvious technical trope, standard if not redundant to the horror genre is deployed. Every scene, when the director wants us to jump can be spotted a mile off. Every character is flat and everything has been done before. It is a joy to see something this unoriginal play out, until eventually, it reaches a point of having ridden all clichés so far into the ground that you would think there is nothing left to ruin, and you will think this right up until the ending. But let me say this, the ending is a veritable coup de grace, about as dire as one can get, a true feat which makes all the junk before shimmer like gold. This is the pay-off. It is the Donald Trump of endings, which is to say, this is not what the viewer wants, but what the film deserves.