Popular college student Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey) has tons of friends, both on Facebook and IRL. She graciously accepts social outcast Marina's (Liesl Ahlers) online friend request, until Marina crosses the line and Laura unfriends her. To everyone's shock, Marina takes her own life in a ritual meant to torment Laura, which appears in a video posted on Laura's profile. Even though it wasn't Laura who posted the video, or other creepy content that begins appearing on her page, her Facebook friend count begins to dwindle as a result. When her real-life friends start dying mysterious, cruel deaths, Laura must figure out how to break the deadly curse before it's too late.
Even though the whole movie revolves around Facebook, it is not actually mentioned explicitly. See more »
When Laura and her friends are looking at Marina's profile page, her privacy for posts is set to friends of friends. Since it says she has 0 friends, that would mean they have no friends in common and should not be able to see her posts. See more »
Don't let this one get lost in the pile of similarly titled and similarly themed, but inferior movies.
The 2017 horror thriller "Friend Request" (R, 1:32) definitely isn't the first movie to mine the ubiquitous, complicated and sometimes dangerous world of social media obsession for thrills and chills and surely won't be the last and it isn't even the first to use that title. 2015 and 2013 also gave us features with this exact title (one from the U.S. and one from India), while similar movies came out in 2016 ("Nerve"), 2015 (the very low budget "#Horror") and 2014 (an American one called "Unfriended" and a Filipino one called "Unfriend"). And, as if we needed these titles to be any more confusing, 2017's "Friend Request" is called "Unfriend" in Germany (the country which produced this one even though it's entirely in English and takes place in the U.S.). Other than the obvious frustration for someone who might want to try to sort these movies out and see one of them, there's the issue of which one(s) might be worthwhile. Having seen most of the U.S. social media movies just mentioned, I'd say this is the best of the bunch.
Laura Woodson (Alycia Debnam-Carey) is one of the most popular students at her college, where she's a sophomore psychology student. Laura has lots of online friends (apparently on a version of Facebook) and a bunch of good in-person friends too. Laura lives in an off-campus apartment with Olivia (Britt Morgan), Isabel (Brooke Markham) and Gustavo (Sean Marquette). She's also friends with Kobe (Connor Paolo, from TV's "Gossip Girl" and "Revenge", here, with his college guy scruff, looking like a young Colin Farrell). He has a big crush on Laura, but she's dating a medical student named Tyler (William Moseley), in whose apartment she often stays overnight. So, with all those friends, what's one more?
Marina Mills (Liesl Ahlers) is the local college loner who sits behind Laura and Olivia in psych class, wears a black hoodie and never talks to anyone. When she sends Laura a friend request, Laura looks at her profile, which is listed as Ma Rina. It's full of black- and-white pictures and animated drawings of creepy and disturbing scenes. Laura's friends, looking over her shoulder at her computer screen, think it's all pretty weird, but Laura respects Marina's talent and, being a genuinely nice person, accepts the friend request, which brings Marina's online friend count to "1". Marina assumes this virtual friendship to be a real one and pursues it as such, but is soon stalking Laura, both online and in person. Laura gets understandably creeped out and pulls back from Marina, which drives the tortured young woman to kill herself with her webcam rolling and posting the video to the college's website. (By the way, that's not a spoiler. The suicide is in the movie's trailers and the incident is revealed very early in the film.)
This is when things really get scary for Laura. The video of Marina's suicide shows up on Laura's page and she can't delete it. Laura tries to delete her account, but that doesn't work either. Laura begins to lose friends at an alarming rate online and in person. Then "Ma Rina" starts becoming online friends with Laura's friends. Increasingly desperate to stop the madness (and to stop the cops from repeatedly bothering her), Laura digs into Marina's past and finds it to be even stranger than she could have imagined. Kobe, who happens to be very smart and a computer whiz, tries to help Laura out and comes to the conclusion that Marina's death wasn't just a suicide, but a ritual rooted in ancient superstition.
"Friend Request" is deeper and scarier than just another story about online weirdness. German director Simon Verhoeven (who also co-wrote the script, along with Matthew Ballen and Philip Koch) gives us a story about online stalking with a supernatural aspect that affects the characters in frightening ways. The online component is the ever- present backdrop for this movie, but the focus is actually on how interactions with this one person affect the lives of everyone involved. Some may see it as a lesson about staying away from people who are "weird" or different than us, but it's actually wise to keep our distance from people as dangerous as Marina (but try to get them help). This is a film about social media obsession, personal loneliness, other-worldly forces and more. Some of the acting is shaky, but the script is mostly solid, the visuals are creative, the mood is creepy and the twists are entertaining. "B+"
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