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MOVIE REVIEW OF SIMON VERHOEVEN’s 2016 FILM ‘FRIEND REQUEST’

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imageFriend Request’ is a cyber horror film that is constantly compared to 2014’s Unfriended. While both films share similar themes in terms of cyber bullying and the inability for the youth of today to ‘log off’, they are in fact quite different films.

 

The plot centres around a college student named Laura, she is pretty, popular and has a bright future ahead of her. Like most students her age she is fully committed to all things social media. Laura’s world is turned upside down when she fails to invite quiet loner Marina to her birthday party. After the troubled girl lashes out Laura unfriends her on Facebook and this pushes Marina to the edge.

Unable to take the rejection and the shame of returning to zero friends on Facebook, Marina decides to take her own life. It is this event that triggers are series of bizarre suicides all across the college campus. Laura and her friends begin to suspect Marina had dark secrets that could ultimately lead to their demise.

‘Friend Request’ is a difficult film to pin down, part horror, part social commentary it is constantly weaving from one style to another. Jump scares are abundant here and come thick and fast, yet there is depth and the audience is challenged where you least expect it. The film encapsulates the youth of today perfectly and has a lot to say about the pit falls and potential danger of social media addiction.

Friend Request 122345.jpg

 

The characters are fairly typical but it is the character of Laura who grabs your attention. She is truly engrossed in documenting every aspect of her life and posting it on the internet. Her addiction and the addictions of her friends are their biggest weakness. The protagonist Marina exploit this to lethal ends. The audience may constantly ask themselves ‘why don’t they just turn off their phones!?’. That is exactly the point, even when their lives are in danger the characters are unable to remove themselves from the digital world and the hold it has over them. ‘Friend Request’ got this message across loud and clear without having to explain the obvious or hold the audience’s hand.

Scares are frequent and often here, some of them you may see coming, others will catch you off guard. Many people regard jump scares as a cheap and lazy, but there were prolonged scenes off tension here often with a rewarding fright.

The main flaw with this film is unfortunately its second half.  It almost abandons the social media angle in favour of a witch hunt style theme. This split the film down the middle and made for an uneven tone. This was a real shame because the most terrifying aspect was seeing the characters unable to disconnect and trying to gauge who was going to be slaughtered next. Once that hook was abandoned it sadly just felt like many other films in its genre.

Unfriend

 

The Verdict

‘Friend Request’ is an interesting, tense but also flawed cyber horror film. It offers a shock a minute and moves at nail bitingly steadily pace before showcasing the plot’s big reveal. It is unfortunate that the film is let down by an inconsistent tone which breaks immersion some what and lessens the scare factor during the second half.

3/5

‘Friend Request’ stars: Alycia Debnam-Carey, William Moseley, Liesl Ahlers

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Visitor Rating: 2 Stars

HORROR

Prey | 20th Century Studios | Hulu

The origin story of the Predator in the world of the Comanche Nation 300 years ago. Naru, a skilled female warrior, fights to protect her tribe against one of the first highly-evolved Predators to land on Earth.

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Genre:

Action, Drama, Horror

Release Date:

20222 (Hulu)

Director:

Dan Trachtenberg

Cast:

Amber Midthunder, Dane DiLiegro, Stefany Mathias

Plot Summary:

The origin story of the Predator in the world of the Comanche Nation 300 years ago. Naru, a skilled female warrior, fights to protect her tribe against one of the first highly-evolved Predators to land on Earth.

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HORROR

Choose or Die – A Miss For Netflix

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Netflix’s home page suggestions can always be hit or miss, and unfortunately its latest release ‘Choose or Die’ falls into the category of the latter. Captivated by Asa Butterfield on the poster, I was curious to see what this film had to offer and begrudgingly it didn’t have a lot.

We follow Kayla, a broke student who has a lot to deal with in terms of her family situation and being the sole provider for herself and her mum. She then stumbles upon a retro video game from the 80s which forces her to choose and ultimately leads to various chain reactions of horrific events involving people close to her.

Lola Evans as Kayla and Asa Butterfield as Isaac

The premise of the film sounds interesting, however, I think it swings and misses quite early into the film’s first act. Eddie Marsan sets the tone and trail of interest for Choose or Die as we are introduced to this sadistic game and the chain of events it will inevitably pursue. 

Choose or Die doesn’t make it easy to empathise with its characters, finding any connection to Kayla or Isaac was difficult. This ‘are they aren’t they’ subplot lingers throughout the film’s narrative but adds nothing to the overarching story. The supporting characters, such as Thea and Laura, are much more interesting and genuinely have you intrigued as to what decisions they will make.

What stood out to me was the violent and gore-like scenes of 80s horrors, with some pretty good stomach churning special effects make-up. Those intense scenes, one involving a rat, had me genuinely glued to the screen, anticipating what may happen next. Choose or Die’s strongest component are the early moral decisions Kayla has to make and ultimately demonstrate Meakin’s passion for the horror genre.

Ioanna Kimbook as Grace in Choose or Die, seen here in the diner in one of the more grotesque decisive moments for Kayla

The way in which this film is shot, felt very “student-esque” with its lackluster camera movements and setting. The set design lacked little depth, except for Isaac’s room which is full of detail, therefore making the world feel small and less three dimensional. An element which pulled me out of this cinematic experience, was the fact that this was evidently filmed in the United Kingdom, and the cast contained predominantly a lot of British actors doing an American accent so I wasn’t fully immersed into this world. 

Meakins clearly uses his passion for the horror genre to influence this film’s dark tone, from it’s leading characters’ moral compass as well as the gorey visuals that inevitably come with those decisions. The whole world feels cold and derelict, be it the place in which Kayla cleans or the housing estate of which she lives in, this is an unwelcoming world that no-one wants to comfort you in. 

Choose or Die isn’t a film that will stick out as one that defined 2022, however I’m sure someone will take something away from this film, be it’s reference to 80s gaming or the violent and graphic elements that the director is clearly passionate about. 

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HORROR

Off Season – To Premiere Exclusively on Shudder

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Shudder, AMC Networks’ premium streaming service for horror, thriller and the supernatural, announced that OFFSEASON will be available exclusively to stream on the platform starting on Friday, June 10, 2022. As a Shudder exclusive, the platform will be the only subscription service that will carry the film in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

Upon receiving a mysterious letter that her mother’s gravesite has been vandalized, in OFFSEASON, Marie (Donahue) quickly returns to the isolated offshore island where her late mother is buried. When she arrives, she discovers that the island is closing for the offseason with the bridges raised until Spring, leaving her stranded. One strange interaction with the local townspeople after another, Marie soon realizes that something is not quite right in this small town. She must unveil the mystery behind her mother’s troubled past in order to make it out alive.

Check out the film’s trailer below and read our review HERE as it debuted during SXSW 2021

Written and directed by Mickey Keating (Psychopaths), OFFSEASON stars Jocelin Donahue (Doctor Sleep), Joe Swanberg (The Rental, “Easy”), Richard Brake (3 From HellMandy), Melora Walters (The Pale Door, “Pen15”) and Jeremy Gardner (After MidnightThe Mind’s Eye).

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