Directed by Simon Verhoeven
Starring Alycia Debnam-Carey, William Moseley, Conner Paolo, Brit Morgan, Brooke Markham, Sean Marquette, Liesl Ahlers
Released on September 22, 2017
Running time: 1h 32m
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Friend Request is so out-of-touch and outdated and misguided, and has absolutely no idea what it’s trying to do. Does it want to update The Ring for the digital age or rip off Unfriended? I hope to God that it’s the former, because Unfriended is so bad that it’s first in line for the chopping block should I ever decide to re-review some of the movies I reviewed years ago. The fact that anyone would consider ripping off the horrible Unfriended is beyond me.
So let’s review this stinker.
So right as I get to the main DVD menu, my ears are assaulted by a horrible dubstep remix of the movie’s theme music.
Awwwww, it even tries to do the whole glitching effect with the many, many, many production companies that backed this. Sorry, but that’s not funny anymore. It was absolutely hilarious when Unfriended did it, but it’s aggravating now.
At Vague College, the main characters sit down in class as the professor walks in. He delivers the news that a student, Marina Mills, has committed suicide. Marina’s death is super cereal because she apparently filmed it on her webcam and the video was posted to the university website. How she stopped the webcam recording after being dead let alone uploading the video to the university website will be explained later. The reasons how will shock you in all the wrong ways.
But this professor reacts in the absolute wrong way: he says that the suicide video was uploaded to the university website and that some students were able to grab the video before the university could take it down, and he urges them not to watch it. You know, the best way to divert people from seeing it would be to deny that there was ever a video at all, and that the video that a few students possess is a fake.
Title sequence. The words “Friend Request” briefly glitch into some unintelligible symbols that are eerily similar to Unown Pokemon before glitching back to English.
So the entire first act of this terrible movie is shown in a flashback to two weeks earlier.
I should mention that the ripping off of Unfriended goes beyond a few simplified plot points and being a horror movie trying to be hip with the youth because its horrors have access to social media. It even names a major character Laura; only this time, she’s not the eeeeeeeevil ghost haunting the main characters’ Skype – she’s the main character who’s the victim of the various supernatural happenings.
And, chronologically, the very first thing Laura Barnes – I mean, Woodson – does in this movie is watch a cat video. Scratch that – a cat video that is actually an Internet screamer! She gets JUMPSCARED in front of her roommates! And the reason she’s watching this video in the first place is because it was shared on NotFacebook!
If you’re going to make a horror movie that makes social media such a huge part of its plot, you need to use actual websites, not just create a fake one that’s just barely noticeably different from the real thing. Even Unfriended knew that. At least Friend Request does it a little better than Cyberbully, which straight-up made up a fake social media site called Clicksters. At least Friend Request got kind of close to imitating Facebook. But it’s one of the most painful clichés in pretty much any movie that uses social media or an imitation of Google. If you look closely, you can totally tell. The URL clearly doesn’t say “Facebook”, the “Messages” and “Friend Requests” buttons have switched locations, and the “Like” and “Share” options have been replaced with “Thumbs Up” and “Spread”
And as Laura goes for a morning jog, we see a montage of various videos she’s posted on NotFacebook. See, look at how popular she is. Look at how her friends all comment on her videos, photos, and posts in SMS speak. Look, she’s texting her boyfriend. Look at how she’s pointing out that her dead dad would have been however old today. Gotta have a tragic past for the sake of a tragic past. Look, she even spends time working for a charity organization. Look at how awesome of a person Laura is. Oh, and she’s also confirming a bunch of friend requests from random people. That’s smart.
Oh, and as she runs, we see one of the most unintentionally hilarious things ever: occasionally throughout the movie, a “friend counter” will show up, showing how many friends Laura has on NotFacebook. Believe it or not, when the horrors start, this friend counter is supposed to be scary. Remember this friend counter, because it pops up multiple times, and it’s freaking funny when it does.
But then it cuts to Laura waking up in Tyler, her boyfriend’s, bed. Wait, wasn’t it morning just a while ago? And I just now realized this: her boyfriend is Peter Pevensie from the Chronicles of Narnia movies. I can see that William Moseley is making only good choices for his career.
As Laura walks to school that morning, she talks with her two friends, Olivia and Isabel. And this dialogue was clearly written by someone who has no idea how college students talk. I should probably point out that the only college students cast that even look like college students are Laura and Isabel and maybe Marina. The rest of the cast looks like they’re in their thirties.
The three girls, as well as Isabel’s boyfriend Gustavo and Laura’s suitor, Kobe, sit down to eat. Is it lunchtime already? And Kobe is suuuuuper jealous that Laura went for Tyler instead of him. You can even see that he’s a little pissed. I wonder if he’s going to become an antagonist later on. Spoilers – yes he is.
Laura looks off to the side to see the stereotypical Goth-ish loner, Marina, staring creepily at her. But Laura thinks nothing of it. I should mention that Marina always has her laptop out.
At class, the same professor from earlier gives a lecture about how people are getting addicted to the Internet and that it can cause depression, anxiety, and trauma. Yes, yes, we get it. The Internet is evil, and it’s the digital equivalent of a drug addiction. Laura responds to a text from her boyfriend and gets called out by Professor I-Hate-the-Internet as an example of Internet Addiction Disorder. Though for some reason, despite being on her laptop, Marina gets a pass. Speaking of Marina, she is still staring at Laura. But Laura still thinks nothing of it.
Back at home, because apparently Laura only has one class, she’s waist-deep in a conversation with her roommates about what filter she should use on a photo she’s about to post to NotFacebook. But then she gets a Friend Request from Marina. Laura and her roommates go to Marina’s profile to see that she has zero friends. Yeah, uh-huh. Right. I’m pretty sure you have to work to maintain zero friends on NotFacebook. They scroll through Marina’s timeline and find a bunch of dark, surreal, haunting images and animations that Marina has created. Uh, is this why Marina is so unpopular? This girl clearly has talent that could be very well utilized on places like DeviantArt or YouTube. She could post videos of her weird animations or of her drawing her pictures, and with that much talent, she could get a lot of fans, set up a Patreon, and make a living that way. At least, in the real world. But not in this movie’s world, as apparently people are scared of this stuff.
But this also begs the question: how is she able to create these surprisingly detailed animations? This type of stuff would take days or even weeks of work, but she’s able to put them out in a few hours. For example, she puts one out with the caption, “My dream last night…”
Also, I should probably mention that a lot of the stuff in these videos will be important later because worthless reincorporation. And some of the stuff that happens in them will happen later in exactly the same way.
So who actually did create these animations for this movie? These are seriously good. Of course, anyone who’s ever visited DeviantArt, any scary story forum, or the darker corners of Tumblr will know what type of stuff I’m talking about.
Oh, okay, there’s another reason for Marina being unpopular – she has trichotillomania – a hair-pulling disorder. Okay, is she seeking help for that? Has no one else suggested that she do so?
The roommates engage in more conversation that is desperately trying to sound like how young people talk. And because Laura is just so nice, she accepts Marina’s Friend Request.
Cut to Marina having plastered a goofy grin on her face as she sits at her computer and visits Laura’s NotFacebook page.
But when you become friends on NotFacebook, you totes become friends in real life, like 4 reals.
Seriously, Laura and Marina even hang out for a bit the next day. Again, they try to have a normal conversation, but clearly the writer has never been around college kids in his life. And this scene is actually pretty uncomfortable.
Later, Marina’s giving off all sorts of red flags. She’s constantly messaging Laura, she’s tagging Laura in everything she posts, and she’s even gone back and “thumbs upped” every one of Laura’s posts going all the way back to the beginning of Laura’s days on NotFacebook. Hey, you can even kind of see the URL. It says something along the lines of http://laura.woodson/messages. Are you kidding me? And yet, for some reason, Laura and Tyler are making out with that being shown on Laura’s laptop in front of them. ‘kay. I love how easily Laura brushes everything off. That, and of course Tyler is a med student.
Cut briefly to Marina in front of the computer. I have no idea why creepy music is playing. Nothing creepy has happened yet.
Laura wakes up in the middle of the night and inexplicably walks over to the window. She sees a wasp on the window and reaches out for some reason, even though wasp stings hurt. She slowly, dramatically reaches toward the window but JUMPSCARE – it’s Marina with a few handfuls of wasps on her. And then Laura wakes up. It was all a dream. Why did this even happen? Marina’s not supposed to be creepy yet.
The next morning on Laura’s run, it’s revealed that it’s her birthday tomorrow. I love how she never gets actual texts – only NotFacebook messages. A bunch come from Marina. It’s been thirty-six hours since they became NotFacebook friends.
Laura then shows her friends Marina’s new profile pic: an image of Laura and Marina photoshopped together. Oooooooookay. They even scroll through to earlier in Marina’s timeline (which Laura had never once thought to check), which shows a random few-second-long staticky flash of two dead young boys with bloated, rotting faces. It disappears, and various other random pictures and videos show up on Marina’s timeline, including a gif of a bunch of Unown Pokemon flying past the screen. They finally stumble across a gif of a horribly burned woman writhing in pain and a woman’s pregnant belly with Unown Pokemon cut into it before shutting the laptop. All of these various random things will come into play later in a really stupid update of The Ring. More dialogue that makes me want to die. NEXT SCENE.
As Laura dolls herself up for her birthday party that night, she gets a NotSkype call from Marina. Say no. Say no. SAY N – oh, eff me, she answers it. This reminds me – how are these college kids able to afford all this Apple technology? Laptops, phones, you name it, it’s there in the possession of these college students. Laura seems to be really unwilling to say that what Marina is doing is not okay, that she needs to back off, and that she really needs to get help. She also neglects to ask what those videos were from earlier on her timeline. Also, I love how Marina’s NotSkype feed gets slightly glitchy whenever her feelings are hurt, like when Laura says that she’s just celebrating her birthday with her boyfriend. Seriously, she looks unreasonably hurt over a turned-down birthday invitation.
So Laura lied to Marina – the party is with her, Tyler, her roommates, Gustavo, Kobe, and even Laura’s mom at some restaurant. But who the hell applauds as the birthday girl comes in? What has she done to deserve this? Did she somehow singlehandedly cause Kim Jong-un to step down and North Korea to disarm? Did she singlehandedly broker peace between Israel and Hamas? Did she cure cancer? Did she invent a new pencil entirely out of leaves? And what type of birthday party even is this? This feels like a going-away party where Laura is about to head off to Africa for a decade to serve with Doctors Without Borders or something. How popular and beloved is this chick? They even go around the table and give one reason they love Laura. Gustavo even proposes a toast! Oh, and I just noticed this now: when Kobe hugged Laura, I spotted that he had something tattooed on his arm. I looked closer, and I realized with a mixture of shock and laughter that it was binary code. WHAT?! WHY?!
And of course the group posts a crapload of photos on NotFacebook, which makes Marina SAD. She even stands about a hundred yards away from the restaurant, staring at the celebration! How does this woman live?
And the next morning, Marina, who has clearly been crying, even confronts Laura in the cafeteria, saying that she thought they were friends, that she’d had a present for her that she’d been working on for two weeks (LAURA: You’ve barely known me for two weeks. ME: Even though it’s literally been three days unless this movie’s conveyance of the passage of time is literally that bad.), that she’s a liar like everyone else, that she didn’t have to accept her friend request, and that she has no idea how it feels to be alone! She even accosts her! Laura shoves her away, which knocks her beanie off, revealing her swollen scalp that she’s been pulling hair out of. Realizing that everyone can see her partially bald head, she runs off. How the hell is this bitch still alive if she gets that incensed over not being invited to a freaking birthday party? How has she never once thought that maybe her actions are not okay and that she needs serious help? Also, how are the bald spots on her head that swollen?
This isn’t how NotFacebook works, Marina! Just because you’re friends on NotFacebook, it doesn’t mean that you’re friends in real life!
Laura calls Tyler (who’s in the middle of class) about the situation, but Marina tries to NotSkype Laura. She declines the call. Great. She logs into NotFacebook, where she receives a barrage of messages from Marina. She promptly unfriends her.
And apparently, if you have zero friends on NotFacebook, your life is basically over. Seriously, Marina gets seriously broken up over her own mistakes. She commits suicide offscreen.
So is Marina just this sexually frustrated girl who has no idea how to express herself, attract a lover, or exercise proper Internet etiquette, and so just comes off as creepy, and so has no idea how to take rejection? Because her attempts to be friendly coming off as creepy feel really unintentional on her part. To me, Marina comes off as this sad, lonely little girl who was not taught proper morals growing up and who just needs a friend. And the best part about all that is that I KNOW THAT THIS WAS CLEARLY NOT THE WRITERS’ INTENT.
Laura, who’s typing up an essay or something, hears something elsewhere in the apartment. She walks around, decides that that’s too boring, and gets a drink out of the fridge. She starts walking back to her room, inexplicably turns around, and sees the mirror from one of Marina’s videos. She walks super slowly toward the mirror and begins to see the woods from that same video in the reflection. And we all know what’s going to happen. Yes, yes, yes, you’re going super slow, movie. Come on, we know that you’re just a worthless bargain-bin horror flick. We all know how this scene is going to end. Laura leans a little closer to the mirror and starts seeing a dark figure in the mirror walking toward the foreground. Movie, I know what you’re about to do. It’s not going to be scary. Just get the jumpscare over with and move on. And as Laura slowly, dramatically leans farther toward the mirror, a monstrous version of Marina appears behind Laura in the real world. JUMPSCARE! Oh my gosh, so scary! Plus, it didn’t even jumpscare Laura. If the main character wasn’t even jumpscared here, then why was said jumpscare even there? Who is it supposed to scare? The audience? Also, these jumpscares are LOUD. They were even louder than the ones in Smiley or The Forest to such an extent that when I went to see Friend Request in the theater, I had to plug my ears whenever a jumpscare would come around to avoid permanent damage. And no, it’s not caused by the theater just playing the movie too loud – the rest of the movie was played at a normal theater volume.
And what exactly does this scary sequence mean? Is Marina some sort of ghost with the ability to upload her dreams to someone else’s head?
The next morning, the opening scene of the movie is replayed. That means that the first twenty-odd minutes of this ninety-two-minute movie are told in flashback.
And Laura actually seems to feel pretty crappy about it. Her friends tell her not to be, and Gustavo says that they might be able to get out of class for the funeral. Asshole. But then Kobe says that there’s not going to be a funeral, as there’s no body. Yeah, but that doesn’t mean that there’s not going to be a funeral. That’d be kind if disrespectful to most of the victims of 9/11. And best of all, the police have no idea who Marina even was. Her contact info and Social Security number have been deleted from the school database. They don’t even think that Marina Mills was even her real name.
That night, Laura is woken up by the “ding” of her ringtone. But this ringtone has been electronically distorted because spooky. Also, I love this “signal-interference”-inspired soundtrack. It really makes this scene soooooo much more effective. Laura picks up her phone to see that Marina sent her a message. She checks her laptop to find that Marina has sent her a video. It’s a video in black and white (because reasons) of a clearly off-her-rocker and disheveled Marina showing a surprisingly detailed picture of Laura to the camera, yanking it back ridiculously fast with a ridiculously loud JUMPSCARE, lighting it on fire, dropping the flaming picture onto a pile of burning stuff under a chair, getting onto a chair, and hanging herself while immolating herself. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that just the hanging would have sufficed. Laura reacts loudly enough to wake Tyler, who tries to shut it off, but Marina the Internet Ghost won’t let him! Every time he tries to X out of NotFacebook, a dialog box pops up, saying “Unknown Error”.
So how did this video get posted to Marina’s NotFacebook? There was no one there to stop the recording, let alone hack into Marina’s account to send Laura the video. Oh wait, I forgot – Internet ghost logic.
You heard that right – Internet ghost.
Internet ghost (in-tǝr-net gōst), noun: An all-powerful entity that has really no moral reasons for haunting the main characters. Can manipulate anything on the Internet or technology in general at will at any time. Much like the strangers from The Strangers, it always has the upper hand unless the plot says so, and could easily inflict its revenge immediately, however and whenever it wants, but isn’t allowed to because plot.
Also, why can’t Laura just send the video to the police?
The next morning, as Laura walks to school, everyone there looks at her like she’s a criminal. The friend counter even pops up, showing that Laura’s friend count is 847 and dropping! OH NO!
And in class, she gets a message from her boyfriend asking why she posted the suicide video. She pulls out her laptop (even though the class is having a test), logs onto NotFacebook, and sees that the suicide video has been posted on her account and all 836 of her friends have been tagged in it. And they’re PISSED. And when she tries to delete it, she gets the “Unknown Error” dialog box. Nooooooo.
Maybe Laura did post it and she’s just crazy. Did she ever stop to think that?
Jeez, people’s accounts occasionally get hacked (because I couldn’t think of a better term). That happens sometimes. If somebody posted that video under her name, wouldn’t there be a crapload of people reporting it? Wouldn’t NotFacebook take the video down for violating Community Standards? Can’t NotFacebook and the police determine the IP address of where the video was posted from? Oh, wait – Internet ghost logic.
Okay, so Laura has tried changing her password. Okay, then contact NotFacebook Tech Support for help. Then if all else fails, delete your account. If that doesn’t work, contact NotFacebook Tech Support and have them delete it for you citing technical difficulties. No social media presence at all is better than an Internet ghost posting a suicide video on your account.
Oh, and Marina is back in Laura’s friend list.
OLIVIA: Unfriend that dead bitch.
That seemed kind of insensitive.
And of course, because Internet ghost logic, she again gets the “Unknown Error” dialog box.
So she does something at least a little smart and goes to the campus authorities, including a police officer who is there because reasons. But of course, despite Laura’s protestation, the officer’s all like, “This video just magically appeared on your timeline? YOU MUST HAVE DONE IT!” And whichever campus authority this is even says that multiple students reported Laura harassing Marina. WHAT?! How the hell did those students misinterpret that altercation between Laura and Marina in such a boneheadedly misguided way? Were they even paying attention? I thought Laura was supposed to be that popular girl that everyone loves and thinks is awesome. Why did they all of a sudden take Marina’s side? Did Marina use her Internet ghost powers to manipulate the students’ statements? What the crap is happening? And when Laura tries to say that no, it was the other way round, and that Marina was obsessed with her, the dean or whatever doesn’t believe her. The dean literally has the most condescending expression on her face that I’ve seen in a very long time. The cop says that if she can’t delete the video, she’ll have to delete her account. Deleting my NotFacebook account? That’s too HARD.
Also, why are the cops freaking out so much over the Marina Suicide video posted on Laura’s NotFacebook that they seem to have completely forgotten that Marina’s public records have been totally wiped? Why are they even asking if Laura knows where Marina committed suicide? The police must have found the body judging by how super cereal they’re acting about this, right? How do they know that it’s Marina that committed suicide? Her public records are completely gone! How did they ID Marina? She set herself on fire; therefore, the only way of identifying the body would be through dental records, but as I said, Marina’s records are basically nonexistent! How do they even know that Marina committed suicide, anyway? The only evidence that such a thing even happened was the fact that Marina herself posted her suicide video on the university website. Who would have posted the video there if not Marina? Considering how painfully nonsensical the situation is, are the police not even thinking that maybe the video was faked, because the only person who could have possibly posted the video was Marina herself? THIS IS STUPID!
At least Laura tries deleting her account. Of course, we never see this, so for all we know, she could be lying. But of course, Marina the meanie-meanie-poop-head Internet ghost won’t let her. Laura even calls NotFacebook tech support to determine why she can’t delete the video or her account and why she can’t unfriend Marina. Well, NotFacebook tech support is pretty uncooperative, even saying that they can’t even view Marina’s profile, and not even suggesting that they remotely delete Laura’s account. Laura doesn’t even bother suggesting that herself, and she hangs up, having had enough. How more people didn’t cringe at the miserably bad acting here is beyond me.
Okay, now text everyone you know that you’re NotFacebook friends with and tell them that you’re not the one posting it and that your account got hacked, and tell them to text everyone who saw the video that Laura didn’t post it.
I should probably mention that the actress playing Laura is Australian, and that her faked American accent isn’t very good. There are multiple times in every line where this becomes obvious, usually when she really overexaggerates every vowel and consonant that would be pronounced differently with an Australian accent. Even William Moseley is better at doing an American accent.
So Laura decides to go talk to Kobe the creepy suitor, who, as it turns out, is a SUPER HACKER, because why not. Oh, and of course he plays violent video games with a lot of shooting and explosions. They sit down at his computer and scroll through Marina’s timeline. I thought this was supposed to be about getting the video off of Laura’s account. And yet, at a seemingly random video of Marina’s eyes, he recoils slightly and is all,
KOBE: That – that’s intense.
So Super Hacker decides to “peek behind the curtain” at the site’s coding. And of course, it’s covered in constantly changing Unown Pokemon. He goes over to his other monitor and shows her what code is “actually” supposed to look like. Yeah. Uh-huh. Right. That’s totally NotFacebook’s coding. They go back to looking at Marina’s account, and conveniently, the next clue to solving the mystery is just conveniently sitting there on Marina’s timeline. It’s an old-timey woodcut-printed picture of a woman hanging herself while setting herself on fire, all in front of a mirror. Also, why is the camera shaking so much?
And then jarringly cut back to Laura at Tyler’s apartment, still scrolling through Marina’s timeline. Why? And then Tyler starts passive-aggressively implying that Laura is cheating on him with Super Hacker. Because this is totally the time for trivial insecurities. Laura gets up from the computer, which goes to a black-and-white photo of Gustavo, which distorts. Kind of like The Ring!
Speaking of Gustavo, over at his place, which is apparently the same dorm that Super Hacker lives in, his call with Isabel is lost among Internet Ghost Static. The “signal-interference”-inspired soundtrack returns. His NotFacebook feed devolves into INTERNET GLITCHING before making his laptop screen into what is essentially a mirror. And as he gets up to investigate a door creaking elsewhere, his reflection on the laptop screen, now a still image, keeps staring back at him. He investigates his dark, surprisingly person-free dorm. I have no idea when the power inexplicably went out. And we all know what’s coming. He sees the demon clown picture on a door, enters the room, and sees some sort of mutant cyclops baby doll on a bunk bed. There’s a dismembered doll on the floor, and a wasp nest in the corner of the room. He slowly, dramatically looks at the awful CGI wasps buzzing on the nest, then looks down and is JUMPSCARED by the two dead boys with rotting, bloated faces. These jumpscares are so loud, so sudden, and so out of context that they’re genuinely jarring, and not in a good way. Oh, and whenever Gustavo’s phone’s flashlight shines in the direction of the camera, expect a really immersion-destroying lens flare.
So Gustavo runs out of the room and down the hall to the elevator and gets in, despite the power being out. Seriously, do elevators work in power outages? But as expected, the elevator stops between floors and the light shuts off. Oh, NOW the elevator doesn’t work. He gets his phone back out, slowly, dramatically shining the light around. He hears more wasps and sees the CGI wasps flying toward a wasp nest in the corner of the room. There’s a bunch of Unown Pokemon on the wall. And then he looks to the left and JUMPSCARE, a hand reaches out and swats the phone away.
Isabel gets to Gustavo’s dorm building, the first floor of which still has the power working, and hits the elevator button. The elevator opens to reveal blood everywhere. Isabel slowly, dramatically gawks at the scene. Gustavo JUMPSCARES Isabel by running from one side of the elevator to the other and repeatedly bashing his head into the elevator wall until he…uh, dies, I guess. And Isabel’s screams sound like screams of frustration, not terror/sadness. And of course her screams have the echo sound effect put on them as we transition to the next scene.
Gustavo’s death is super cereal, as not only Laura, but Olivia, Tyler, and even Super Hacker are at the hospital and sitting outside Isabel’s room. Tyler pulls Laura aside, asking if Gustavo was on something, citing his “insane” medical report. And then they just forget about the whole thing and walk into Isabel’s hospital room. But Isabel just tells her to leave, and says that it’s all Laura’s fault, that Gustavo wasn’t himself, and that Gustavo was having nightmares despite nothing ever having remotely shown me this, and that she’s having them too.
Jarringly cut to Laura, Olivia, and Super Hacker putting some flowers on an actual on-campus shrine for Gustavo.
Cut to Laura and Tyler looking super broken up about Gustavo’s death. Laura gets another message with that distorted “ding” ringtone. The signal interference soundtrack returns. The message is from Super Hacker, telling Laura to check her NotFacebook timeline ASAP. It turns out that the elevator security cam footage of Gustavo killing himself has been posted on Laura’s account and has all her 512 friends tagged in it. And of course, not only are the comments filled with hatred, but Laura can’t delete the video. Olivia barges in demanding that Laura delete her account despite having been told earlier that Laura has no ability to do so. After Olivia leaves, Laura tries to post something saying that she’s not the one posting the videos, but Marina the Internet ghost INTERNET GLITCHES the text with Unown Pokemon and replaces it with “u will know how it feels to be lonely (smiley face emoji)”. And she can’t backspace. Oh, and her friend count magically jumps back up to 601.
But then in the next scene, the friend counter shows back up showing that her friend count is at 494 and dropping. She talks with the dean, who says that even though they can’t prove that it’s her posting the videos, (oh yes they can), they have no choice but to suspend her for the rest of the semester. And Laura’s acting like the dean is being super unreasonable. You know, Laura, for all anyone knows, it could be you posting the videos. All the evidence very clearly points to you. And as far as even I know, it could just be her having been driven to madness by her guilt over Marina’s suicide, inexplicably gaining super hacker powers to hack into Gustavo’s dorm’s security camera feeds.
Laura’s mom FaceTimes her in the middle of her walking back to her dorm. That sequence was completely pointless.
And then, because this is totes smrt, Laura and Super Hacker are in the computer lab at the college scrolling through Marina’s timeline, seeing that Gustavo was friended by Marina right before he died. And despite this clearly not being shown from Gustavo’s point of view, Marina friending her next victims is a thing now. Super Hacker then shows the footage of Gustavo’s death, pointing out the obvious wasp-buzzing sound in the background. Super Hacker says that he did some research and determined that black wasps are associated with evil, that they appear wherever witches live, and that they follow witches around and protect them. So Marina’s not just an Internet ghost, but an Internet witch that has free reign to do and manipulate whatever she wants online, has a swarm of eeeeeeevil wasps at her command, and can even make people kill themselves. How does this have a 5.4/10 on IMDB again?
Super Hacker uses his super hacking skills to get him and Laura into Marina’s room. Surprisingly enough, there’s no one else around. They search the place, find some weird pictures and eventually a group photo from some orphanage with a younger Marina in it, just…sitting there in some random folder. Oh, and in the picture, there are two boys’ faces scratched out. Let me guess – those are the two dead boys with the bloated faces? Laura asks Super Hacker to find whichever orphanage it was, and Super Hacker says that if it was ever on the Internet, he’ll find it. Apparently Super Hacker does not know how to reverse image search.
And so they…just find the orphanage. It literally just cuts to Laura going there herself. Which orphanage is it? How far from her college is this orphanage? How did she get here? She goes inside and is met by the orphanage’s matriarch. Laura learns that Marina’s real last name was Nedifar. The instant I heard that name, I immediately thought “anagram”. So I go to Google, go to the first anagram descrambler I can find, and type in “nedifar”. And it shows me that the word “nedifar” is literally an anagram for “a friend”. I facepalmed. I am not freaking joking. That is painfully dumb.
I told you.
So, Marina’s history: she came to the orphanage as a ward of the state. She had a really rough time there. She was routinely bullied and even raped by those two boys. Okay, that’s unnecessary. She was always alone. She would continually draw the weird pictures. And then she found some bad places online. Sometimes, she would just stare at the blank computer screen for hours. Why anyone would let her is beyond me. The other kids became terrified of her, saying that she gave them nightmares. This isn’t going to mean anything in the end, is it? Spoilers – no it doesn’t.
Meanwhile, Super Hacker’s still in the computer lab doing research. He determines that Marina used her laptop as a black mirror, and committed her particular method of suicide in front of it in order to transfer a demonic version of her soul onto the Internet. Okay, that’s more than enough backstory, movie. The whole “spirit of suicided girl seeks revenge” idea was all that was needed. Also, Super Hacker’s gotta highlight the super-important bits because this movie’s creators think of their audience as illiterate chimps. As Super Hacker finds the same picture that was on Marina’s timeline, the screen does some INTERNET GLITCHING and cuts to showing a close-up of Marina’s eyes. JUMPSCARE, by the way. The lights in the computer lab go out, every computer starts playing the same video of Marina’s eyes, and when Super Hacker tries to escape, he sees a demonic version of Marina at the door. But when it cuts back to the door, it’s just the janitor, the lights have turned back on, and the computers are back to normal. The janitor is rather confused at Super Hacker’s terrified expression.
Tyler’s at his apartment on NotFacebook, typing up something saying that Laura oh-so-obviously isn’t posting the two suicide videos. But because Marina the Internet witch wouldn’t like that, the text INTERNET GLITCHES into Unown Pokemon, and Tyler all of a sudden hears a loud ringing and then wasp buzzing in his ear that was obviously added in post-production. He takes a pair of tweezers to his ear and pulls out a wasp. Are we ripping off Case 39 now?
Oh that’s how Laura got to the orphanage – she took a bus. She’s on her way back now, doing more research. She finds an article about two boys who were found stung to death by wasps. Yeah, it’s the rapist kids. Oh my gosh, this is more than enough. This is silly now. She calls Tyler and asks him to access Marina’s medical records. Wouldn’t those have been deleted too?
Oh, here comes another spoopy sequence. Olivia finishes showering (but it’s the middle of the day), dries off, hears some sounds in the dorm room, sees the patio door slam shut (JUMPSCARE), and leans down toward her laptop. It’s doing things by itself because Internet witch logic. She sees that Isabel is now NotFacebook friends with Marina. Oh NO!
Isabel is at the hospital flipping through photos of her and Gustavo on her phone when her phone does INTERNET GLITCHING and becomes essentially a mirror, freezing on a still image of Isabel. The signal interference soundtrack is back. She looks outside the window to see some burning building: an obvious hallucination that will mean something later. Oh, remember how the rest of this movie’s jumpscares up to this point have been at least a little out of the norm by being the second thing you’d expect rather than the first? Yeah, well, that’s all about to end. She slowly, dramatically looks onto the other hospital bed to see a horribly burned pregnant woman. And then said woman JUMPSCARES her by sitting up really fast, because of course. She runs out of the room into the dark hospital hall. Why are there no doctors or nurses anywhere on this floor? She runs off down the hall and sees the two dead boys walking toward her. She runs into the bathroom and locks the door, but a large puddle of blood spreads across the floor. She sees a hallucination of herself lying dead in a bathtub, having slit her throat. Yeah, nice sky-blue contacts. I totally believe you’re possessed. She slowly, dramatically walks up to the corpse. And then the corpse JUMPSCARES her by having her eye move to look at her, because of course. Despite telling herself that it’s not real, she looks to the left and sees the demonic Marina, who kills her offscreen via really awful editing.
Isabel’s death is super cereal, as Laura’s back at the hospital again, and she’s obviously not been crying. She’s just rubbed her eyes until they’re a little red. The police talk to her and show her the security footage, which shows Isabel wandering through a populated hospital, but not one doctor or nurse is doing their job. Apparently, Isabel doing this as well as ripping out her hair and slitting her throat is a first for this cop. He even makes another accusation that Laura posted the death videos on her NotFacebook, though he admits that they can’t prove it, because they can’t determine the IP address from which the videos were posted. THEN WHY ARE YOU MAKING SUCH ACCUSATIONS AT ALL?! You’re freaking out so much about these suicide videos getting posted on Laura’s timeline that you’re not even thinking about why Laura’s friends are killing themselves in strange ways or how Laura could possibly access CCTV footage! Also, could Marina the Internet witch not have manipulated things to make it look like the videos were being posted from Laura’s IP address?
And of course, Isabel’s death video is posted on Laura’s NotFacebook, and all 209 of Laura’s friends are tagged in it. And of course the comments are filled with derision.
Cut to Peter in the middle of dissecting a corpse in class. Cut to Olivia, who tries to delete her NotFacebook account, but Marina the Internet witch won’t let her. “Unknown error” dialog box. Tyler tries the same thing with the same results. Wait, I thought Tyler was in the middle of a dissection; why is he on his phone off to the side? And of course, when Super Hacker tries the same thing, he also gets the same results. He then tries to unfriend Laura, but to no avail. That’s what’s so scary about Internet witches – the inconveniences they cause. Honestly, it’s more funny than scary.
Tyler somehow knows the code to the door for his supervisor’s office. He goes in, sits at the computer, and looks up Marina’s medical files which Marina has not deleted with her Internet witch powers for some reason. I’m also pretty surprised that Marina’s files have her actual last name on them rather than her fake one, because she was attending this college with the last name Mills and her records should show that. Where’d she get the money to attend this college, anyway? Did she magically increase the funds in her bank account? Did she ever have any money to her name at any point in her life? Apparently Marina’s had a few runins with the medical staff at this college, as she’s been diagnosed with psychosis and reactive attachment disorder as well as trichotillomania. He even determines that her mother was in some sort of evil witch coven at some random building in the middle of nowhere. The building caught fire, Marina’s mother was the only survivor, and the hospital kept her just alive enough to carry Marina to term. Heavens above, stop. You’ve long since crossed the line. Marina’s backstory is now overstuffed and unwieldy. I love how Marina the Internet Ghost decides to not make the medical files start INTERNET GLITCHING.
Super Hacker tells Laura about the black mirror stuff and the repercussions of Marina’s suicide as Laura just looks super bored. Apparently the only way to stop Marina is to find her laptop and destroy it.
Olivia packs up her technology and other stuff, intending to go home. But she hears her printer printing out a bunch of stuff. It’s printing out a bunch of paragraphs of glitchy Unown Pokemon, but the entire paper is covered in ink save for the white Unown Pokemon. That’s a huge waste of ink. She slowly, dramatically looks over the sheets of paper, and then gets JUMPSCARED by a hallucination of Isabel cutting her throat. Laura’s off in the other room printing out every last picture on Marina’s NotFacebook timeline. Olivia bids goodbye to her.
The next day, Laura shows up super late to the triple funeral of Gustavo, Isabel, and Marina. She couldn’t even make it to the funeral on time? Wow, you’re a bitch, Laura. Also, a triple funeral? I’m pretty sure the families of Gustavo and Isabel wouldn’t want that. Also, I would be able to take this scene much more seriously if the friend counter didn’t show up, showing that Laura’s friend count is at 79 and dropping. Oh, and her mom’s there, and she wants Laura to come home. Screw solving the mystery – just go home. Or at least explain the situation to your mom.
Tyler tells Laura about the coven and the fire and the birth, and how she was “alone in the womb for months”. You’re alone in the womb for the entirety of the time your mom is pregnant with you, you dumbass. But then on a different laptop, Marina’s NotFacebook page starts posting a bunch of Laura’s photos, including the group one from her birthday. And Olivia’s face starts distorting like in The Ring. Ur nur.
Olivia’s phone goes off because Marina can power up her cell phone even though she powered it down. She hears some whispering elsewhere in the dorm and goes to investigate. The computer in…somebody else’s room starts INTERNET GLITCHING and does the mirror-to-still-image thing. She slowly, dramatically leans closer to it and is instead JUMPSCARED by the doorbell. She slowly, dramatically goes to answer it, slowly, dramatically gets up to the peephole, and looks through. She sees the silhouettes of the two dead boys off in the distance, but then one of the most cliché JUMPSCARES happens: the demonic version of Marina sticks her face right outside the peephole. Of course. Olivia backs away from the door, but because she sucks so bad, she trips over her own two feet and lands on her ass. A bunch of awful CGI wasps fly in through the peephole. Olivia starts scooching backwards, but she looks behind her to see a demonic version of Marina with a wasp nest growing in her head. That is freaking disgusting.
Laura and Tyler are driving super fast to get to Olivia. I can’t help but notice that they’re driving on the left side of the road, despite using an American car. This wasn’t all filmed in America, was it? In fact, the whole movie was filmed in Cape Town, South Africa. They pull up to the dorm only to have Olivia slam down onto the hood of the car. And I found myself thinking, How did Olivia fly that far from her dorm window? The only way that works (because physics) is if someone threw her from that window. Like a football lineman. Olivia is still alive, and she’s even wearing those sky-blue contacts. HOW IS SHE STILL ALIVE?! How far above ground is her dorm room?
Olivia is taken to the hospital. Laura is there. The friend counter appears again, showing that Laura’s friend count is at 21 and dropping. Laura pulls out her phone to see a notification that Olivia is now NotFacebook friends with Marina. Wait, can you actually get those notifications saying that two of your NotFacebook friends are now NotFacebook friends? Tyler comes up to Laura and says that Olivia might actually pull through. You know, I can’t help but notice that Tyler has not once shown fear for his life given the circumstances. Is he just that noble? Is he just too manly to show fear? I’m not talking about not showing mortal fear around Laura – I’m talking about not feeling any mortal fear ever. Laura sees the cops and quickly leaves. I guess we needed a reason for Laura and Tyler to not be together in these next few scenes.
She heads out to the burned building with Super Hacker. The soundtrack decides to be really freaking annoying. Tyler calls Laura, but the cops interrupt them and Tyler scrambles to cover for himself. I should mention that the tree shown in one of the videos on Marina’s NotFacebook shows up. What terrible reincorporation. And of course there’s no cell service out there. Kobe mentions that Laura shouldn’t be fearing for her life, as Marina’s Internet-witch-ly goal is to make her lonely.
Back at the hospital, the possessed Olivia wakes up in the ICU after her heart rate monitor glitches out. She pulls out the various medical equipment with hilarious stock squishing sounds and gets up inhumanly quick.
What the hell type of face is that supposed to be?
The police officer outside turns around to see that she is missing. Olivia JUMPSCARES him from the side, slamming him into a shelf of stuff. She takes his gun despite the cop being a grown-ass hunkin’ MAN, drops him on the floor, makes like she’s going to shoot the cop gangsta style, then turns the gun on herself. The other cop and Tyler rush into the room and behold the scene.
BLACK COP: Really?
Okay, that’s the funniest part of the movie.
Laura and Kobe arrive at the burned-out shell and go in. As to why they waited until sunset to do this, I will never know. Drama, I guess. Super Hacker gets that distorted ding ringtone, telling him that he’s now NotFacebook friends with Marina. His phone glitches out and does the whole mirror-to-still-image thing. The signal interference soundtrack comes back. He tosses the phone away.
Laura has somehow left Super Hacker behind. She’s still searching the place. Super Hacker is trying to find her. He sees some random woman walking out of some hatch that must lead to a basement, and she starts slowly, dramatically walking toward him. But then he gets JUMPSCARED by backing into Laura. Well, that’s both cliché and convenient. Super Hacker and Laura go into the basement. I had no idea Laura brought a flashlight with her. They scour the place, finding a bunch of big wasp nests and the ruins of Alph. That’s a Pokemon reference. And again, Laura and Super Hacker get separated. Laura looks for him and finds him down a corridor, standing in the corner, facing a mirror. Laura slowly, dramatically moves closer to Super Hacker. Are we ripping off Blair Witch Project now? I guess not, because when Laura turns Super Hacker around, he’s all
SUPER HACKER: She can’t make you lonely when you’re dead.
And JUMPSCARE, Super Hacker stabs Laura. In a nonfatal place because we still have ten more minutes of movie. I freaking predicted this from the beginning. Laura smacks Super Hacker upside the head with her flashlight and runs off. And surprisingly, getting stabbed gives Laura super endurance powers, because she somehow actually manages to OUTRUN Super Hacker. She makes it to some construction site, completely neglects to ask for help, and just gets a taxi to some other random building that she recognizes from Marina’s NotFacebook page.
Super Hacker runs into Tyler, who drove there in record time. How the crap did he get away from the cops?
Laura’s taking a taxi to the Random Building. The taxi driver offers to take her to a hospital, which he should have done despite Laura telling him no. The fact that she’s not even thinking of seeking medical attention is ridiculous. But he just drops her off at the Random Building. Laura goes in.
Tyler takes Super Hacker to the Random Building, despite having no idea that Laura is there. I have no idea why Super Hacker doesn’t bother to explain the situation to Tyler. Tyler goes in.
Laura comes across a bunch of nothing and is feeling remarkably little pain for having just been stabbed in the left middle side of the abdomen. She’s FaceTimed by her mom, who says that she’s been seeing things and having nightmares. After some INTERNET GLITCHING, she all of a sudden gets those sky-blue contacts in her eyes, which disappear for some reason. Laura’s mom walks away from the camera with a knife before the call ends. Oh nooooo, not…Laura’s mom. Tyler finds Laura, but Super Hacker shanks him in the neck. Noooooo, not…Laura’s boyfriend. He was the best actor in the movie.
Super Hacker chases Laura in a surprisingly tensionless and short chase sequence. Super Hacker catches up, but a crapload of CGI wasps swarm him and sting him to death. How are they stinging him through his clothes? Surprisingly, his skin is not even slightly bloated. We never see his body again.
Laura demands to know what Marina wants of her. She tearlessly cries, because she’s a terrible actress. She looks really broken up for having just watched her boyfriend get murdered. The child version of Marina (who is clearly not the same child actress from earlier in the movie) approaches Laura and says that she just wants them to be friends. Best friends. Forever. Marina, if you wanted to be friends with Laura, there were so many other better ways to go about doing so. And now, why do you expect Laura to acquiesce?
Kid Marina walks away into a passageway leading to a secret room. Laura follows, finds Marina’s fried corpse, and even finds the laptop. And she doesn’t even think to do the thing she came here to do: break the laptop. She walks up to the laptop, which is doing the whole mirror thing again, except this time, the area around Laura morphs into the forest from Marina’s video. Laura’s standing there in the forest, slowly, dramatically looking into the mirror from that same video. She hears whispers coming up behind her, and she turns around. Ooh, now that we’ve had the bullcrap twist like in Unfriended, are we now going to have a giant jumpscare? Yes. Yes we are. In a massively horrible JUMPSCARE, the demonic version of Marina lunges at the camera.
But unlike Unfriended, Friend Request doesn’t end in a pathetic jumpscare. It ends with Laura having taken Marina’s place as the loner who’s always on her laptop, creepily eyeing some other girl at school, and having zero friends on NotFacebook. Though I should point out that her NotFacebook account’s profile picture is the photo from earlier with Laura and Marina photoshopped together. Oh, and one of her eye irises is blue, even though they were already blue before. The way we can tell this is because Laura looks into the camera at the end, sending the cheesy teen drama factor through the roof. Is that supposed to signify possession? If there was a sequel to this (there won’t be, because nobody went to see this), an exorcism performed on Laura presumably wouldn’t work because Internet witch logic.
And what did all of that crap overstuffing Marina’s backstory lead up to?
KUNI: NOTHING! AAABSOLUTELY NOTHING! … STUPIIIIID! YOU’RE SO STUPIIIIIIID!
Five minutes of credits, cutting the length of this movie down to eighty-seven minutes. I complain about this a lot, but this is a big pet peeve of mine when it comes to movies. It just really pisses me off when bad movies lie about their runtime by slapping several minutes of credits onto the end to increase the runtime to feature-length.
The instant I saw the name Simon Verhoeven being credited as the director, I immediately thought, He can’t be related to Paul Verhoeven, can he? The director of Robocop and Total Recall? As a matter of fact, he is! He’s Paul Verhoeven’s grandson! Well, I can clearly say that nepotism in the film industry is rarely a thing. Yeah, we’ve got directors like Sofia Coppola, daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, and, more recently, Oz Perkins, son of Anthony Perkins, but they are the exception, not the norm.
Friend Request is such a chore to sit through. I thought that this was going to be one of those funny-bad movies that would be perfect to watch with drunk friends, but no – it’s just dull and painful and puts me in a foul mood.
This is obviously a movie made for my fellow millennials and is meant to highlight our potentially dangerous obsession with social media, but Friend Request treats its main characters, and by extension its audience, in such a condescending and lazy way. It doesn’t give us a reason to root for the main characters, there are no character arcs, and every one of them is nothing more than a stereotype. Even the college professor is the typical “old fart who hates the Internet” and the cops are laughably inept. I feel nothing for these snobbish rich kids going to college all the way over in Cape Town. Of course, they all wear the best clothes and have all the best Apple technology, which is pretty condescending in and of itself, because most college students can’t afford Apple products. I sure can’t – I’m typing this review up on my crappy $600 Toshiba laptop that I’ve had since the end of 2015 that had a fatal hard drive crash the next June. And speaking of Apple products, why is it that every teen movie features their characters using all this super-expensive technology? This is extremely annoying. It’s just another one of those garbage horror films that’s trying to be hip with the youth because the plot involves social media.
The movie rocketed right out of the gate with its plot and refused to give us any character development whatsoever. I had no reason to care about the main characters, and therefore had no reason to fear for them when they were in scary situations. I didn’t give a crap whether they lived or died. In fact, the only emotion I really felt toward any of the character’s deaths was relief that at least the movie would be over soon. And the motivation of the antagonist was really silly and childish, and her super-overstuffed backstory led to absolutely nothing. And it didn’t help that the characters were played by terrible actors (okay, William Moseley and even Liesl Ahlers as Marina do fine) and had to spout such cringey dialogue that was clearly written by someone who’s never been around millennial college students ever in their life.
It doesn’t help that the plot is so predictable and formulaic. As soon as I got introduced to Marina and her emotional issues, I knew exactly how her character would act over the course of the movie. As soon as it was revealed that Marina turned into an Internet witch, I knew exactly how the rest of the plot would play out. It became nothing more than a supernatural social-media-related slasher with a really dumb mystery and pointless backstory tacked on to pad the runtime. Without the mystery or backstory, the movie would only be about forty minutes long. Or less. And to make things worse, it even steals elements from The Ring and Unfriended. Speaking of Unfriended, literally the only thing that Friend Request does better than Unfriended is that it’s not as painfully boring.
And even the approach to horror here is pretty damn basic, as every scare sequence gets super quiet, has everyone do everything slowly and dramatically, waits ten to twenty seconds, and then inserts a deafening jumpscare. Yeah, the jumpscare sometimes doesn’t happen in the first or even second way you’d expect, but you will definitely guess right by the third time. Every time a scare sequence comes along, we know exactly what to expect because of what type of horror flick this is, and we just grow super impatient waiting for the inevitable. It’s crap like this that pisses me off about studio-produced, factory horror.
It’s yet another out-of-touch bargain bin horror flick whose only marketing scheme is pandering to the youth because soshal mdeias r kewl. But even I have to give millennials credit sometimes – they knew pandering when they saw it, and the only people who went to see this crap were schmucks like me who watch movies like this ironically.
And for all I know, it could have just been Laura being crazy.
How does this have a 5.4/10 on IMDb again?
Final Verdict: .5 out of 5 stars.