FRIEND REQUEST is Germany’s answer to 2015’s American horror film Unfriended, which is a film I really enjoyed. This remake is English-speaking throughout, produced in Germany and filmed in South Africa — turns out it’s quite the worldly endeavour!
It seems I’m part of a small group of people who liked Unfriended (I liked it so much I bought it on release day!), so I was understandably excited to see FRIEND REQUEST. The general gist of the plot is the same — college student Laura unfriends Marina, a fellow classmate and loner, on Facebook, prompting Marina to commit suicide. Her death video is uploaded to Laura’s profile, and suddenly members of Laura’s social circle all start dying in various gruesome ways. But that’s where the similarities end. FRIEND REQUEST is creepier and more in-depth, thanks in part to Simon Verhoeven’s direction, and it has a higher level of intelligence than Unfriended. It also delves further into the supernatural elements, isn’t shot through a Mac computer and it explains just what exactly is doing its best to cull the college population.
FRIEND REQUEST utilises a talented, recognisable young cast from such films and TV shows as The Chronicles of Narnia, Gossip Girl and The 100. Australian actress Alycia Debnam-Carey does a great job of leading the group, and I was truly invested in her strong but terrified portrayal of Laura. Liesl Ahlers as Marina is the stand-out performance for me; she successfully makes Marina vulnerable yet chilling, and she really is the driving force behind the whole nightmare.
I previously mentioned characters dying in horrendous ways, and that’s actually one of my favourite parts of FRIEND REQUEST. The deaths have a Final Destination feel to them, if it was a malevolent entity doing the death dealing instead of the Grim Reaper itself. Heads are splattered against walls, people are shot and throats are slit — gore hounds will definitely enjoy the ingenuity of the supernaturally-assisted suicides, though they’re not for the faint hearted. You have been warned.
Along with a competent cast and a decent helping of horror, FRIEND REQUEST also boasts one of the year’s most memorable music scores so far. Gary Go takes the composition reins here, and the end result is a soundtrack I both noticed and remembered. I find that a lot of horror film scores are instantly forgettable these days, but FRIEND REQUEST’s succeeds in standing out — it provides the film with an electro techno vibe, which is appropriate considering it’s all about Facebook and the ramifications of technology.
FRIEND REQUEST is an ode to modern society’s social media addiction, and it cleverly plays on our dependence on popular outlets such as Facebook and YouTube. It raises many interesting topics for discussion, making us think about the downfalls of technology, our incessant need to be connected 24/7 and also the way we treat other people.
There’s a lot to like about FRIEND REQUEST, and it’s easily going to be in my top ten horror films of 2016. Don’t be put off by the fact it’s a remake of Unfriended, because you’ll be doing yourself a disservice — see it and find out which version you prefer, and maybe you’ll surprise yourself in the process. It’s a brilliant little horror film!
– JENNY DAVIES