Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey of Fear the Walking Dead) is a popular college student who has a smile for everyone. Throughout the movie, we’re shown an on-screen tally of her Facebook friends count - which, as the story begins, is more than 800. It increases by the second.
One day during a psychology lecture (conveniently on the topic of “Internet addiction disorder”), Laura catches the eye of Marina (Liesl Ahlers), a shy, pale transfer student in a black hoodie who, most unusually, has zero friends on Facebook.
That is, until Laura accepts her friend request, setting the plot in motion.
Marina is an artist whose timeline is full of violent, gothic black-and-white animations that look suspiciously like the ad campaign for a horror movie.
Laura’s attempt to befriend her seems genuine - to a point. But when Marina becomes overly possessive, Laura reluctantly unfriends her, and Marina kills herself.
Or does she? A grisly video of the suicide mysteriously appears on Laura’s timeline, and we watch as this once-popular girl’s friend count starts to drop.
Despite a few well-timed jump scares, Friend Request never builds up much tension. The repetitive score (by Gary Go and Martin Todsharow) evokes a different kind of horror and well before the inevitable carnage ensues.
That’s the fear that you’re about to watch a feature-length Facebook commercial, populated with vapid, interchangeable characters.
The recent social-media comedy-drama Ingrid Goes West, while flawed, got more mileage out of its similarly resonant theme.
More violent but less sharp, Friend Request is an indictment of contemporary society, couched in a gruesome yet predictable package.
It’s times like this when you wish there were a dislike button.