Intermittently creepy but packing few genuine jolts, Friend Request contains the germ of an interesting idea but loses its way before lurching to an unsatisfactory halt.
Alycia Debnam-Carey is Laura, an attractive, popular student who becomes the sole Facebook friend of an isolated kid in her college class. When adoration turns quickly to obsession she unfriends the girl, Marina, who responds with a barrage of needy messages.
Then Marina kills herself – but somehow manages to post a suicide video to Laura’s Facebook page. Things escalate further, with Laura seemingly reposting the video, earning the disgust of all who know her. It becomes apparent that the (un)dead girl is somehow responsible for Laura’s elevation to pariah. When, one by one, Laura’s friends start to die horribly, she must face her tormentor. At its dark heart Friend Request boasts an intriguing combination of ancient witchcraft and modern tech. But clues to the villainous Marina’s background are thrown away. What remains is a wannabe attempt at updating the slasher revival of the ‘90s as Laura’s pals are systematically bumped off in messy fashion. What should be the film’s trump card – the morphing of the occult and invasive new technology – becomes cumbersome, eventually relying on shadows, shocks and BOO! moments that cheapen what might have been a new style of horror. Connor Paulo takes the acting honours as the computer whiz who realises he and his pals have taken a step into uncharted territory. His is authentic terror – real fear that provides a foundation for the remainder of the film. But the pay-off when it comes is a case of too little, too late.