Friday, September 22, 2017

Friend Request ★

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    "Friend Request" has to be the dumbest picture of the year. (I know this may come as a shock to some, but hear me out.) It's predictable, poorly acted, and the slapdash script makes a tired story seem downright stolid. (I think you can see where this review is headed; I can't promise that feelings won't get hurt.) In all honesty, the only redeemable aspect of this production is the stellar work provided by the hair and makeup crewthey somehow managed to transform Liesl Ahlers, a beautiful young actress, into something, well, let's just say it's quite the metamorphosis. With all due respect, this third-rate exercise in horror deserves less than a one-star rating, but what the hell. I'm in a giving mood today.

    Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey) is the most popular student on campusof course, we only learn of this fact via the scores of friend requests and text messages that bombard her on a daily basis, all of which appear on the screen and none of which have anything to do with sound characterization. Marina (Ahlers), on the other hand, is a social pariah in need of companionship. She's the kind of girl that receives little consideration from the male coterie, and if this were an episode of "The Hills" (or some other teenage soap opera), she'd be the homely sidekick that no one talks about. (Not only does the movie mimic an MTV reality show, but it desperately tries to slip in a dash of drama to no avail.) After Laura begrudgingly accepts Marina's invitation to friendship, the two develop a breakable bond that is destined to result in heartbreak and humiliation.

    And this is where things go from bad to just plain stupid. (In case you are wondering, I'm solely referring to the idiotic plot, yet it does work as a broader criticism.) As if you couldn't already piece it together, Marina becomes clingy and begins to invade Laura's personal space, and this prompts Laura to unfriend Marina on the mecca of all social networking sites (Facebook). This egregious act (insert sarcasm here) will spawn several unwelcome consequencesfrom supernatural Internet coding to real-life terror in the form of wasps and other killer insectsall because our well-liked protagonist couldn't find the time for one more schoolmate. But enough about worn-out plotlines

    German filmmaker Simon Verhoeven makes a conscious effort to build the suspense naturally, and I must give kudos to the editing team for their use of a long-forgotten editing technique (the jump cut), but these elements become lost once the script begins to run its course. (I only require one word to describe the supporting cast of characters: airheads.) Worse yet, the stiff dialogue demands even stiffer performances, and if I may paraphrase famed director Sidney Lumet for a moment, it is the movie's lack of spontaneity that brings about its undoing. (In other words, inevitability should never beget predictability.)

    The bottom line: A few years back, critics had to sit through "Unfriended," a horror film worthy of journalism's finest bad press, and "Friend Request" is pretty much cut from the same cloth. And look, we could discuss the understated theme involving the dangers of Internet addiction disorder all day long (it's mentioned rather often), but where would it get us? (If only the victims had remained unplugged, the entire conflict could have been avoided. I guess that's the point.) The truth is, movies like "Friend Request" are made for one reason and one reason only: to loot horror fans of their cherished earnings. Still, the picture isn't a total loss. For, we're left with this laugher of a line — "Unfriend that dead bitch!"

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