Friend Request is a film I’ve been curious about since noticing a cardboard cut out when exiting another film one evening at the theater. Initially this made me think of the 2014’s Unfriended. The unique thing about Unfriended is that the entire film took place through characters computer screens. So while the two films have a popular social media site in common, they are drastically different in terms of execution.
Friend Request opens on a classroom where a professor informs his classroom that a student has killed herself. Upon asking those in the room to report anything that might help authorities understand what occurred the camera pans to two friends, focusing on one of the most popular girls in school, Laura Woodson (Alycia Debnam-Carey). Moments later audiences are transported to two weeks earlier and we watch as she absentmindedly clicks on numerous confirms without truly acknowledging who she is friending online. In fact, Marina is the only person she examines even remotely in depth. Though I have to believe in hindsight she wishes she would have kept scrolling.
The film plays on our addiction to the internet and our devices. After all, we live in a society where we are constantly posting something. This ranges from a night out with friends to what we are having for lunch. We all use our social media as a way to keep in touch with someone. These people vary from those we went to school with to someone who randomly likes the same books as we do. In truth we sometimes friend, or follow, complete strangers all because we have something in common. And why? Because we do not want to be lonely. We all want friends. We want to surround ourselves with people who care about us.
Likewise, at the core of the film we find a young woman who just wants a friend. Thankfully, not all of us go to the extremes Marina does to maintain a friendship. Even though at one point we begin to wonder which character is truly obsessed with who along with the buddy cops in the film. Granted, audiences know the answer to that question as Laura’s friend count quite literally begins to drop both online and in real life. Under those circumstances Laura should consider herself lucky that anyone wants to stand by her side by the end of the feature. Marina’s whole mission is to make Laura feel as lonely as she did upon seeing the birthday gathering online.
On the positive side, despite the poor choices these characters make throughout the film, Friend Request has a noglastic feel lurking around every corner inducing a feel of late nineties horror. There are comedic devices used at just the right moment to give audience members a much needed laugh as well as numerous jump scares riddled throughout. Nevertheless some of these jump scares left me angry with myself because I knew they were coming and I could not resist jumping back in my seat.
Equally important to the film is the imagery used throughout. There is a go between of real life and the animation sequences that manages to keep audiences in both the real world and the digital world. By keeping us as well as the characters less grounded the film creates the effect that we much like the characters cannot tell the difference between our online world and our real life. The two are so intertwined that we are constantly linked and creating the world that we believe we live in while sometimes that might not be the truth.
Ultimately, Friend Request left me thinking far more than the feature probably intended. The film is designed for those seeking a cheap thrill and delivers on that and a lot more if one is willing to put in the effort.