Susan Granger’s review of “Friend Request” (Entertainment Studios/Global Media)
Like “Unfriended,” Simon Verhoeven taps into social media to propel this tech-terror thriller which starts out with a provocative premise before it inevitably dissolves into clichéd carnage.
College student Laura Woodson (Alycia Debnam-Carey) is undoubtedly one of the most popular coeds on campus. Since she has more than 800 ‘friends,’ she graciously accepts a ‘friend’ request from lonely Marina Mills (Liesl Ahlers), a strange, hoodie-clad, Goth-like classmate.
But then Marina becomes obsessed with Laura, who lies to her about a birthday party. That tips troubled Marina over the edge, causing Laura to ‘unfriend’ her. In retaliation, Marina posts a video in which she’s seen committing suicide by hanging herself and setting herself on fire.
In an accompanying message, Marina vows that Laura will soon understand what real loneliness is. And that’s just the beginning of the torment Marina directs toward Laura. Cyberstalking reigns, as horrific videos suddenly begin appearing under Laura’s name.
Unable to delete the videos and cancel her demonic on-line account, Laura takes desperate measures, enlisting the services of a hacker, Kobe (Connor Paolo), when her real-life friends start being ceremonially killed by grisly, gruesome, supernatural methods, particularly CGI wasps.
“That’s not code,” Kobe declares, examining the mystical videos of their deaths. “I think it’s a ritual.”
Or, as the tagline proclaims, “Evil is trending.”
Co-writing the screenplay with Matthew Ballen and Philip Koch, German director Simon Verhoeven is the son of director Michael Verhoeven and actress Senta Berger. He is not related to Dutch director Paul Verhoeven.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Friend Request” is a formulaically trashy, throwaway 3, filled with far too many jump scares.