I love when this happens. I spend so much of my time bemoaning the fact that there seems to be so little originality in the horror movie genre, that something new comes along and it’s a total surprise. Last year, It Follows blew me away with its deceptively simple protagonist – it could be literally ANYONE, a plot device that was used to tease the audience several times. It was as original a concept as A Nightmare on Elm Street was thirty one years ago.
Friend Request actually only bounced on to my radar while I was looking to see what we could fill a triple bill at the multiplex with. But again, horror fans are in for a treat as the concept is pretty fresh, exciting and more than anything – original, yet so blatantly obvious. I guess I’m a little bit surprised that nobody thought of it sooner.
Social networking has become probably the biggest revolution in communicating since a sharp point was dipped into a coloured liquid and words were formed. We’re ALL doing it. We’re ALL pretty much hooked on it. It’s almost the case where if you don’t have a Facebook account, you don’t really exist. So kudos to the writers, producers and the director for bringing the concept of a social media haunting to the screen.
Friend Request (See? Even the title tells you everything you need to know) truly is a horror for the cyber ago. The age where we’re all connected. Maybe previously, say, ten years ago – this film would’ve tanked due to audience ignorance. The mainstream didn’t really know the terms and the jargon. But now, the appeal and the understanding is practically universal – and there we have the key – we’re so tech savvy these days that the internet is as familiar as any location where a scary movie might be set.
So, on to the plot and I’ll breeze through this in as much of a spoiler free way as I think I can while giving you a taste of the actual movie – loner goth girl in college wants to make a friend and become popular. She has no friends on her Facebook. (Okay, the word Facebook doesn’t actually appear anywhere on the screen, nor is it mentioned - but come ON. That layout and those colours are way too familiar to be a mere coincidence. It’s Facebook in everything but name. (Though, as the plot unfolds, it becomes clear that this isn’t exactly the kind of product placement Facebook needs.)
So, Goth Girl befriends Popular Girl, but soon becomes a nuisance and gets herself unfriended. Goth Girl goes nuts and takes her own life in despair, but not before placing a curse on the Popular Girl that she will lose all her friends.
So, Popular Girl’s Facebook feed becomes host to Goth Girl’s suicide video and some updates which shock and disgust the faculty AND the students. Popular Girl’s staggering number on online friends starts to dwindle. She can’t do a thing about it because her account can’t be deleted. Even an experienced hacker can’t get into the coding because – and this is ingenious – the code is written in runes.
There are plenty of twists and turns in the film, and a few good scares to go along with the mounting unease of something so familiar, something that billions of us use daily, being turned into something evil and malignant. A laptop used for black mirror magic? Wow – that took my breath away.
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