Earlier this year, I discussed the failures of the horror genre that have become the norm in that of my review for John R. Leonetti’s “Wish Upon.” I discussed the unoriginality, the predictability, the lack of charisma, and the lack artistic prowess presented in the modern day horror genre. Simon Verhoeven’s “Friend Request” touches on almost every single one of those points. The narrative is simple enough to follow; it tells that of the story of a popular college student attempting to befriend a psychologically damaged social outcast through the medium of social media. After some disturbingly forward moments from this deranged girl occur, she soon decides to commit suicide that soon leads to her violent haunting of this young lady and her friends through the forms of technology. The story itself sounds a bit condescending as an ultimatum message that suggests friending everyone instead of friending only those you like. James Ponsoldt’s “The Circle” inferred those points earlier this year, but “Friend Request” tackles them and transitions them to the point of extremity that is almost laughable. The screenplay is drastic, the filmmaking is dull, the cinematography is overly glossy, and the performances are attempting to be better than that of the screenplay. Nonetheless, “Friend Request” is another dud in the chamber of the ever so predictable modern day horror genre. We can only hope that films like “IT,” “The Devil’s Candy,” “Mother,” and “Get Out” get more notice as the originality of the horror genre looks like it's beginning to become close to that of extinction.
The continuous attempts at updating the horror genre to the digital age of the world are consistently failing to say the least. Levan Gabriadze's "Unfriended” was one of the few that I found myself enjoying, because of its creative setting and format that lead to that of a thrilling film. It wasn’t perfect by any means nor was it great either, but what “Unfriended” did that “Friend Request” didn't was that of its ability to place legitimacy and comprehensive understanding behind that of its horrific imagery. Everything made sense, and everything felt believable, the same cannot be said for that of “Friend Request.” A film in which the scares feel as if they are written by that of a short film enthusiast who's paying homage to that of the cliches of the horror genre. They’re never earned. Instead, they are thrown out on the silver screen within quick succession to that of precursoring notices from that of the illuminated screen of a computer. They feel as if they were last second ditches at connecting a story that served best as a logline for a screenplay than anything more. One of them includes that of a young man attempting to order some late night delights from his girlfriend, but he is soon approached by that of a dark presence of some kind. The computer screen goes dark by that of some glitch; his face stares into the blank screen. And when he turns away, his face on the display remains the same. The door creaks open, and the lights flutter to darkness with no explanation present. He soon discovers an empty room in what is assumed to be a dorm of some kind, which begs the question as to why a dorm room is empty during the fall semester of classes? Within this dark room is that of creepy dolls, old toys, and inexplicably hideous young boys whose faces consist of prosthetic makeup to replicate that of an overwhelming amount of wasp stings that have swollen their face to unrecognizability. Feel the cliches yet? How about the facet of the next thought the young man has when seeing these frightening young boys he sprints to the elevator which, of course, stops working entirely. The lights turn out, and the elevator stops, leaving the boy to be trapped by that of a magical appearing wasp nest that leads him to be attacked by that of a jump scaring hand. Is any of this feeling slightly similar to things we’ve seen before? If so, then strap in because this is how the entirety of the ninety-two-minute runtime of “Friend Request” feels. From beginning to end, “Friend Request” plays like that of an old movie we’ve seen a million times. The changes are minuscule, and the flaws are noticeable. Beginning with that of the numerous amount of question that arises when viewing this film. Such as to why should we feel that our main character, Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey), deserves this torture for unfriending the abnormal Marina (Liesl Ahlers)? Did she do something wrong? In my book, no, she was depicted in a way that felt inexplicably forward. She forced herself upon Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey). Demanding they be friends, making plans without her consent, and forcing herself into another person’s life as an uninvited guest. This character is reminiscent of the problem that lurks within that of the screenplay in that of how the characters are reflective of extreme ideas. The characters never feel approachable. Instead, they are akin to that of cartoon characters. People on a screen that feel unattainable as they act in one unique manner at all times, whether it's that of Marina (Liesl Ahlers) whose character is depicting that of evil and nothing else or Kobe (Connor Paolo) who's that of the nerd with a crush on the cute girl. Seriously, could this film be any more reminiscent to that of the past? The filmmaking itself is sluggish and lackluster. The director focuses on that of medium shots, and close-ups on that of the characters face to these horrific incidents. The practicality within the scares is questionable. Especially as to how Facebook was unnoticing to that of the numerous amount of deaths associated with a profile, and how they refused to shut it down as if a girl sharing police evidence of her friend’s gruesome deaths was perfect for Facebook’s public relations. The cinematography is glossy in the beginning, and the added edit of Laura’s (Alycia Debnam-Carey) depleting friends list adds no more drama to a film consisting of a foretelling narrative. The cinematography soon transitions to that of gloom when the constant dread of terrorizing spirit begins to become the norm of these people’s lives. The only aspect leading to that of intrigue within this film is that of the performances and a few of the scares feeling slightly eerie. The use of the scary boys may seem like a cliche, but they do provide a glimpse into that of some creepy atmosphere. One of the few times the film feels like that of a horror movie instead of a pretentious display of the damages that social media can create. The performances are slacking for sure, but there’s a bit of charm to found in them especially in that of Alycia Debnam-Carey who’s magic reigns with that of charisma trapped in a screenplay that lacks any sense of character to bite into. Liesl Ahlers is disturbing at times, but her performance mostly feels like that of a highschooler pretending to be that of an emo of some kind. Once again, she seems false like the rest of the aspects to be found within this predictable cliche of a movie.
Simon Verhoeven’s “Friend Request” is nothing short of cliche, if you haven’t noticed that in my spiel of film criticism than by all means go and see it. For me though, I can’t recommend to any member of the general audience, especially if you fancy yourself a fan of the horror genre. “Friend Request” suffers in creating a sense of legitimacy within that of its screenplay while refusing to provide a shred of urgency or that of a touch of horror that is similar to that of anything creepy in any way. There was also a particular problem within that of the makeup department in an overuse of purple shade eyeliner to depict the feeling of exhaustion or anxiety. It began to become mistakenly noticeable which is something that leads to that of the overall problem with that of Simon Verhoeven’s “Friend Request.” No feeling of ambition, no sense of believability, no atmosphere that consists of eeriness. “Friend Request” is one of those films that attempts to add originality to a genre that contains an idea that works better as a first-page introduction than that of an entire book. Simply put, “Friend Request” is a bitter pill to swallow that attempts to be something bigger than it is. It’s a genuine idea that falls short of creating anything near that of compelling. I looked down at my watch multiple times while sitting within the dark corridors of an empty theatre, despite the continuing attempts at reinvigorating my attention with loud noises and cliche plot points. Least to say, I found myself yearning for those end credits to appear on the screen. I desired to escape this ongoing travesty.