Marina does not like what she sees on a social networking web site. And thus, the evil of Friend Request begins.

Warner Bros.

Friend Request is the second “Facebook horror film” to obtain vast launch prior to now two years. That quantity could both appear too excessive or too low to you, but it surely’s definitely fertile pop-culture territory: younger, hip children stay their lives on-line and die for it, mwahaha.

This week’s new film (which, technically, got here out in Germany in 2016) is not shy about aping the 2015 film Unfriended, and it liberally borrows from the likes of Black Mirror, as properly. In excellent news, this unoriginal horror film performs good, humorous, and breezy with its materials, which is usually the purpose of a great slasher flick anyway. It is definitely not the last word “evils of Facebook” film, when it comes to both social commentary or pointed, Facebook-related barbs, and its weak ending tanks among the enjoyable. However there’s nonetheless sufficient solid stuff right here to make this a nice, beginning-of-autumn horror shock.

“Zero friends?”

School scholar Laura Woolson lives her total life by Faceb—er, sorry, by an unnamed, fully blue social media community web site whose information posts, shared media, cell messenger app, and normal design is an almost excellent copy of Facebook. She selfies, events, volunteers abroad, retains tabs on a cute surfer boy named Tyler, and has a critical case of duckface. We see her adolescence play out as a social-media montage. Her good friend depend is above 800.

Her life collides with Marina Mills, conveniently sufficient, at a university psychology course throughout a lecture about Web Habit Dysfunction. A professor reminds the category that this dysfunction is “an escape from things we don’t want to deal with,” and, in fact, the scholars do not discover. They’re too busy checking their telephones and laptops. Friend Request wastes no time outing Marina as a terrifying, made-of-red-flags goth child, as each early shot of her comes full with eerie stares and creepy sound cues, and it is throughout this lecture that Marina’s across-the-room stares flip right into a extra overt act: she sends the lovable, well-liked Laura a good friend request.

“This girl has zero friends?” Laura’s good friend shouts with fun afterward whereas flipping by Marina’s weird profile. “What is she, 12 years old?” However Laura takes pity on the weirdo, whose social media web page is roofed with intricate, hand-drawn paintings, and clicks “accept.” Issues, unsurprisingly, get bizarre from there. When Laura complains about her busy life, Marina excitedly and wickedly whispers in response, “too many friends!” Individuals begin having eerie desires. Marina begins obsessively e-stalking Laura. And when tragedy befalls the brand new child, Laura rapidly realizes that she’s trapped: dangerous stuff goes to occur to everybody she cares about, particularly in the event that they’re related by way of social media.

Unfriended has an analogous premise: a young person dies, then she mysteriously takes her vengeance out on a bunch of pals in a approach that connects all of them by way of numerous chat and networking platforms. However Unfriended lives and dies way more by the sword of its gimmick, which has all the film happen on the protagonist’s laptop display (with pals’ faces and occasions showing primarily by way of video-chat home windows). Friend Request will not be as intelligent, but it surely’s infinitely extra watchable and truly flexes some actually solid set-design chops. It does not appear like a cost-cutting horror flick; slightly, its creepiest moments happen in a big number of areas, and that is key for a enjoyable horror film.

Good horror, so-so tech

Maybe Laura should've given Marina's page a closer look before clicking "accept."

Perhaps Laura ought to’ve given Marina’s web page a better look earlier than clicking “accept.”

“Fakebook” integration occurs all the time in Friend Request, in fact, with the great instances (emojis and selfies) and the dangerous instances (dropping good friend counts, “delete your account” calls for) all being proven on display by way of acquainted UI. However because of how the plot unfolds, the social-media facets finally develop into window dressing for a extra conventional horror film story that mixes the occult with a shunned outcast.

And the film actually is at its greatest as a standard, straight-up horror homage, particularly when it dances together with your expectations that one thing terrible is about to occur. Creepy sound results begin taking part in—and on this film’s case, the telltale “Marina is about to strike” sound is not a Jason Voorhees’ stutter-gasp however a wave of these cellphone reception buzzes that you just generally hear in close by audio system. It is, fairly frankly, an superior use of the tone. The film’s good scenes borrow from the normal creepy-stuff guidebook, and you’ll anticipate uneven lighting, wasps, doll components, intricate mirrors made out of animal bones, and silent, faceless youngsters leering round corners.

Friend Request leans extra on rigidity and creepiness than soar scares, and its likable characters and hanging creative and set design go a great distance towards making you teeter towards the sting of your seat throughout these moments. This is not as outstanding as, say, It Follows, but it surely’s additionally a much more attention-grabbing and entertaining horror film than the brand new It.

The film’s producers have undoubtedly executed their tech-based homework in some methods, and the token super-geek character, Kobe, is at all times accompanied by correct screens of issues like code and searches by the Internet’s darker corners. (One blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appropriation of 4chan imageboard content material is kind of good.) However one essential level of the film’s logic is completely busted: Laura and her pals see sure, terrible content material mechanically seem on their social media pages, however neither police intervention nor telephone calls to the social networking web site will let Laura delete her web page because it begins changing into otherworldly.

Along with critically violating American legislation (think about if Facebook by no means allow you to delete an account), this angle of the film additionally is not explored in an attention-grabbing approach. Friend Request might have satirized the trendy “fake news” explosion by having folks imagine soundly unfaithful stuff spewing out of Laura’s overtaken profile. Or Laura might have tried, and failed, to mount a real-life marketing campaign of battling disinformation, solely to search out that individuals had been extra all in favour of what social media stated on their screens than what she stated in actual life. As an alternative, Friend Request fairly rapidly provides up on making attention-grabbing tech-related statements or jokes. The film resorts to witchcraft and darkish rituals, not computer-related satire.

This shift remains to be pleasant and watchable, because of a solid forged and serviceable teen-humor script. (Remarkably for Western cinema, the forged is usually feminine in a approach that feels natural and unforced.) The script’s major exception comes when one character’s motivations take a weird flip close to the film’s finish. This try at a surprise-twist ending fails as a result of its logic runs counter to the remainder of the film.

Regardless of the shortcomings—and a scarcity of extra attention-grabbing cheesy-horror takes on teenagers’ addictions to telephones and oversharing—I discovered myself pleasantly stunned by most of Friend Request. It is additionally a welcome alternative to resurface the formidable Unfriended. For those who’ve seen neither, I might say the older film is extra attention-grabbing, if solely by a smidge, whereas this week’s newer film is definitely extra deserving of a theater expertise with a laughing and gasping crowd.