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"Friend Request" Denied - Film Review

By Lindsey DeRoche; A&E Editor
On October 9, 2017

There are many films, in my opinion, that start out with great intentions, but fail to even truly make that fact count when the final product comes to fruition. When the trailers first arrive, the films appear to have good concepts, and a strong skeleton in the works. A trailer viewer thinks, “Hey, that might be worth watching.” And, then, you almost wish you could get the hour and a half to two hours back. Simon Verhoeven’s social media-fueled horror film “Friend Request” falls right into this category.

“Friend Request,” which was released on September 22, starts out with a strong sense of societal commentary. The main character, Laura, is a popular college sophomore, who spends her days in class and her nights partying with a view of what is most likely the Pacific Ocean, along with the company of her many friends and the equally-popular boy she is seeing.

However, Verhoeven shows just how much of Laura’s life is a sort of facade, or "show," all for the viewing of others. Facebook statistics, such as the numbers of friends characters have, are often projected by a character’s head, along with their name, evoking a feeling that even real life is permeated by a virtual world that rules everything.

Every time Laura has fun or does anything worth sharing, she does so on Facebook, to her legions of friends. Actually, everything that we learn about Laura (for the most part) is shown to us via our peeks into her social media. We see everything from last weekend’s alcohol-infused shenanigans to a jovial and carefree day with her romantic interest (an unofficial boyfriend of sorts) in the ocean all thanks to her social media.

We as viewers, just like Laura’s 800-and-so friends see everything she does. For the entire beginning of the film, this constant feeling of a being a part of a sick, voyeurism-centered culture (which is akin to the work of Hitchcock films like “Rear Window”) and everything in life merely being a “show” for others is potent.

The story arc is thrown into motion when an unpopular, introverted classmate named Marina tries to befriend Laura. As the film’s name suggests, one friend request and online friendship (or lack thereof) is what causes mayhem to ensue.

Themes of graphic violence and gore, suicide, and Occult-esque magic envelope the rest of the film. However, while watching a horror movie that comes out in 2017, I am never shocked by these aspects. What I am shocked by, however, is a storyline that deteriorates into boredom for me.

Verhoeven had my attention with the societal commentary and the addictive nature of social media in the modern age. I was ready for this message to careen into violence for the rest of the film. But, for me, the plot drops off. The film shifts its focus from commentary to, well, I am not quite sure.

To this day, I am still unsure of where the movie’s message moves once the horror kicks in. Is it a critique on social media in general? How we “perform” for each other? Is it a critique on bullying? Loneliness? I am honestly still unsure.

Even with what I believe was meant to be a shocking ending, I found it anticlimactic, as I no longer had much attachment to Laura or other characters.

I left the theatre not only with my time wasted, but with my knowledge of what was set up to be something of merit, but that managed to crash and burn right before my very eyes, hoping to use “shocking” gore to move the plot along. Friend request denied.

 

 

 

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