Friend Request follows a young woman who upon unfriending an outcast from her social media platform, finds herself the victim of a vengeful spirit when the outcast takes her own life.
What can you say about a movie that is basically a blend between Unfriended and The Grudge that has neither the lovable nature of the former or the powerful scares of the latter? Well, when you don't have originality on your side, it's hard to get a win. And when the quality of the product can't repeat the quality it is essentially copying, we're in for a bad time.
Friend Request spends a majority of its runtime with a vengeful spirit harassing a college woman's social media (basically Facebook) page. Yes, I think there is room for fear in the realistic possibility of your social media accounts getting hacked and wreaking havoc on your online profile, which in this day and age is ever-increasingly merging with your real-life profile. And generally realistic fears being applied in film can have a major impact. For example, the scariest movie I've seen in YEARS is The Big Short.
But Friend Request fails to capture the terror of the scenario by dismissing all logic. If you are so devoid of personal and connected relationships that no one on your Facebook list of friends believes you wouldn't post horrible things on your wall, then you aren't much of a protagonist a viewer would get behind. And that is perhaps the greatest struggle of this film. It is scoff-worthy ridiculous the reactions characters have to the situation (yes, I understand the caricature cops are purposefully trying to be funny, but it still doesn't work). Our heroine is somehow a complicated blend of completely in the right while unable to muster any sympathy from the audience.
There is a difficult scale in horror of protagonists that deserve their doom and those that don't. Sometimes you sympathize, sometimes you end up rooting for the bad guy. This movie, however, manages to make me completely disinterested in the survival of the heroine, yet even more so dismissive of the vengeful spirit's motivations (and no, the kicker/twist ending doesn't satisfy that). The lengths you would go to take vengeance on someone who unfriends you on social media stop at a mild complaint in passing to close friends, not suicide so you can possess their social media platforms and harass them. This lady doesn't need the Ghostbusters, she needs a supernatural restraining order.
I will say, there are some brief moments where we get a glimpse of the antagonist's vengeful spirit, and the design is pretty cool. I like the elements of the witchcraft mythos applied to the spirit's manifestation. But, it's only enough for a brief nod of approval and not a salvageable element of the production.
I just can't get behind a movie that never puts much at stake. Sure, there are some deaths, I get it, but the reasoning behind them is so vain and finicky that it's literally laughable while watching it unfold. But I guess that's what you can expect from a film centered around social media hauntings. Boy, I hope this doesn't become a trend...