Film Review: “Friend Request” (2016) ★★★

Whether one watches an amazingly great movie or a painfully bad one, there is always something one can take away from it. Some films might teach you how to live; others – how to love. Simon Verhoeven’s “Friend Request”, for instance, gives the viewer a thousand of reasons why not to accept a friendship request from someone you don’t know. Nobody is guaranteed from avoiding the fate of poor Laura – the protagonist of Verhoeven’s film. I believe anyone, who watches this film, from now on will take at least a moment to consider their priorities, before hitting the life-changing ‘Accept’ button.

Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey) is one of the popular students at her college. Everybody loves her. She has good friends, a handsome boyfriend, and eight hundred eighty-seven friends on her Facebook account – a number big enough to acknowledge her social status as everyone’s favorite.

Everything changes in Laura’s and her friends’ lives when she accepts a friendship request from a social outcast named Marina (Liesl Ahlers) whom she has met only once before. Soon after accepting her request – and I dare say much sooner than you can imagine – things start to change very rapidly, putting in danger the lives of everyone around Laura. And all that because of a real-life rejection that Marina is unable to take lightly.

The film starts with Laura hearing the news about a student who has committed a suicide. That student is Marina. Then, the story takes us two weeks back, where Marina finally summons the courage to approach Laura and talk to her. It seems that even before that, Marina has been following closely Laura’s life. The two girls share a brief talk, which turns into a pleasant discussion. For someone as popular as Laura, this conversation is never supposed to reoccur. Yet, later that day Marina sends her a friend request and luckily for her, gets accepted without having to wait long. As Laura finds out, she is Marina’s only friend on her social account, and her Facebook wall features posts of scary images that are soon to start haunting Laura in her nightmares.

Things get out of hand when Laura refuses to invite Marina to her birthday party. She lies to her, saying that she is planning to have a party for two with her boyfriend. That is only a fake excuse, and the truth comes out when the party pictures of Laura and her friends appear on Facebook. This is very upsetting for Marina, who, at this point is too obsessed with Laura.  She seems to have lost her only chance to build the friendship that was never meant to grow any further. She loses the light of hope, which is a dangerous thing to her unsettled, obsessed mind.

Soon, Laura is going to learn a new lesson: Never unfriend someone you have just befriended. One must think twice before accepting a friendship request, as not every book can be judged by its cover. The ugly cover might be disgusting to touch, yet inside of it a source of knowledge and potential might be concealed, which in case of misuse, can turn into a dangerously charged weapon. And that’s exactly what happens in this film.

To conclude, Simon Verhoeven’s “Friend Request” may not be one of the best horror movies you have ever seen but it still holds some magic for a first-time viewer. The director has selected young and talented cast, who provide solid acting. The storyline is fast-paced, but never too fast for the viewer to miss the fun parts of the film. And, if you have any concerns about whether or not to become friends with someone, refer to Verhoeven’s film as a great reference – do not mess with people you don’t know and never test the limits of the person – they might prove to have unstable state of mind.

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