Friend Request, C-
Rated R, 92 minutes
The dull, lackluster new horror film "Friend Request" is one of the sillier death-by-social media films of late, clearly mimicking the scarier, more relevant "Unfriended" from last year. In spite of an intriguing premise (accepting friend requests from people you don't really know to boost your friend count) and a few jumpy moments, it amounts to little more than a 90-minute advertisement for Facebook, and not always a good one, either.
Laura ("Fear the Walking Dead's Alycia Debnam-Carey) is a popular college student who graciously accepts an online friend request from Marina (Leisl Ahlers), a young social outcast. To everyone's shock, Marina takes her own life after Laura unfriends her. Soon, a disturbing and mysterious video appears on Laura's profile and her Facebook contacts slowly dwindle. When her friends suddenly begin to die one by one, the frightened young woman must figure out a way to stop the carnage before it's too late.
"Friend Request" is not as bad as it is just boring, and it'd be more satisfying to check your Facebook news feed than sit through it. The German production yet filmed in English in South Africa, is directed by Simon Verhoeven and co-written by Verhoeven, Matthew Ballen and Phillip Koch and becomes an uneasy mix of the supernatural and social media.
The social media aspects have some relevancy, but throw in witches, Black Mirrors and the occult, it becomes a bad, ultra silly cross between "The Omen" and "The Social Network, and on that note, we see little of what makes these humans tick. It would've been more provocative knowing the real reason you're friend list is going down is that you're overly self-absorbed instead of being possessed by that Black Mirror hanging in your hallway. Take that you food pic or travel video or concert check-in.
With that in mind, "Friend Request" starts out OK, then slowly loses steam in the middle-act when all the friends start dying (or self-destructing) and our bland heroine, along with her two dashing boyfriends (William Moseley of "The Royals" and Connor Paolo) must figure things out before more people die. Dang it, and someone keeps posting those awful videos to her page. Could it be spam, or something much more deadly?
In spite of a semi-thought provoking end scene, "Friend Request" doesn't belong on your must-see movie list. If you want a darkly funnier, far more pertinent take on the effects of social media, see the hilarious Aubrey Plaza comedy "Ingrid Goes West." As for this "Friend Request," I'd decline or delete it for sure.