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Watch This Review

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Movie Review

You know that person on Facebook who seems to have a life that's oh-so-much better than yours?

That'd be Laura.

Laura may only be a sophomore in college, but no matter: Her social media presence proclaims to all that she's already more successful than most. Smarter. Prettier. Nicer. She goes on more exotic vacations, hangs out at the best parties and, of course, has loads of friends. Soooooo many friends, people. And even though Laura is clearly a better human being than any of the 840-some folks she's befriended on Facebook, they still adore her. I mean, who wouldn't want to bask in the social glow of Laura's megawatt popularity?

Marina wants to feel some of Laura's social media sunshine on her pasty white face. She, like Laura, goes to college. She, like Laura, attends a psych class. After that, the similarities between the two get pretty slim. She's an outcast who glares from behind a black hoodie and pulls obsessively at her hair. Her Facebook friend count? A big, fat zero. No matter: She still obsessively posts her artwork on Facebook anyway—gloomy, gothic pictures of black trees and castles and scared little children and … well, darker things.

But, boy, it'd sure be nice to have someone to look at her creepy pictures. Or even someone to talk to. Someone to be her friend. She's never had one of those. She imagines it must be nice.

So she sends a friend request to Laura. And Laura—because she's nicer than anyone else ever—accepts.

But alas, the word friend means something different to someone who has one of them to someone who has 840. Marina actually takes the whole "friend" concept literally: She wants to talk. Hang out. Y'know, do friend things. But Laura already has plenty of better friends taking up her precious time. And Marina's whole look-at-how-tragic-I-am vibe just harshes Laura's mellow. Who needs a harshed mellow showing up on Laura's über-chipper Facebook page?

So when Marina gets upset about not being invited to Laura's birthday party, Laura—sadly, of course—decides there's only one thing she can do: Unfriend the weir— er, poor girl.

Marina does not take her unfriending well. She promptly hangs herself in front of her laptop, immolates her still-struggling body and automatically posts the resulting video to Facebook. A tragic end, it would seem.

But wait! It seems as though Marina found some … um, friends, after all. And Marina, despite being dead, still hopes to show Laura what it feels like to be lonely … by killing her friends off, one by one.

Positive Elements

A lesson lurks beneath Friend Request's troubling story: Obsessing over social media can kill you. The movie obviously takes that warning to some ludicrous extremes, but I think the it's intended to be—at least on some basic, ill-formed level—a metaphor for the dangers of social media.

When Laura plays with her phone during psych class, her professor jokes that she's obviously a victim of "internet addiction disorder." When a dead Marina starts creating havoc in Laura's online life—an echo of cyberbullying—her friends beg her not to check her profile every five minutes. (It's unhealthy, they say.) And when she and her friends are unable to access or even delete their own accounts, viewers are reminded of the all-too-real dangers of having your social media hacked and hijacked.

Marina's sad story contributes to the film's cautionary-tale vibe, too. While alive, Marina found unhealthy solace on the internet. A former headmistress of hers tells Laura that as a child, Marina would spend hours just staring at her computer screen—sometimes when it wasn't even on. She explored dark, disturbing corners of the internet as a girl, too, further misshaping the poor lass.

Marina may serve as the film's villain, but the internet serves as an accomplice—and the movie nods at the dangers we all face when we use this marvelous-but-mysterious tool.

Spiritual Content

The dark screens we see on powered-off computers, tablets and phones become "black mirrors," and instruments of black magic.

The movie posits that black mirrors have been used by centuries by witches and wizards for "scrying"—a method, the movie tells us, of calling on terrible spiritual forces for dark ends. Marina's suicide in front of her "black mirror" laptop allows her to become—or to be claimed by—something capable of wreaking bloody revenge.

But the movie also suggests that Marina's life has always been linked to black magic, even from birth. Her mother was part of a satanic cult, we learn. And while pregnant, that woman was apparently part of some terrible ceremony: When the cult compound burned down, she survived, but just barely. She was then wheeled into the hospital burned to a cinder and bearing strange runes carved on her exposed belly. Marina gestated for months inside what was, essentially, a corpse—alone, the movie suggests, even before she was born. Similar runes return once Marina's dead—showing up on walls, printed pages and even as computer code for Laura's social media account.

As a child, Marina would stare at her turned-off computer for hours and hours (again, using it as a black mirror), and the movie suggests that her occult ties helped rid her permanently of a couple of really terrible bullies. Black mirrors appear in medieval renderings of witchcraft, and Laura looks into her own creepy black mirrors in dream sequences and visions, sometimes seeing shadowy forces therein.

We see the word Satan graffitied across a wall. Marina's demonic abilities include controlling black wasps (and somehow making them build nests instantly wherever they might be needed). One of Laura's expendable friends toys with a cross necklace she's wearing.

Sexual Content

Laura has a boyfriend, Tyler, with whom she often spends the night. We see them cuddle and snuggle and smooch, but that's about it. "You monogamous or what?" Olivia, one of Laura's friends, chides. "It's not a dirty word," Laura tells her.

Olivia briefly mentions a recent physical encounter. She also takes a shower (we see her from the shoulders up) and walks around her apartment in a towel.

As a child, Marina was physically bullied by a pair of boys. In one flashback, we see the boys drag Marina into a bathroom and pull her to the ground before the camera leaves—a scene that may suggest the abuse included a sexual component (though all parties appear to be preadolescent).

Gustovo (one of Laura's friends) asks Isabelle (another friend) to pick him up some chocolate because he's on his "period" and chocolate comforts him, he says.

Violent Content

Several of Marina's victims are swarmed by Marina's pet wasps: One person is attacked by the devilish insects in an elevator, and someone finds him still alive—thwacking his bloodied face and head into the elevator wall. (Blood stains the wall and floor elsewhere.) Another victim covered in the wasps and seems to succumb (screaming, naturally) to the stings themselves.

Still another victim sees a vision of herself in a blood-filled tub, apparently after killing herself. She later cuts her own throat—an image we see repeated in various contexts. Someone is stabbed gruesomely in the neck. And someone else, under the influence of Marina, shoots herself in the head, blood spattering a window behind her. Someone gets stabbed. A woman is hit by a car but survives.

Marina kills herself on camera: We see her body dangle as a fire lights beneath her, the flames crawling up her dress. (Later, people discover her charred corpse.) Indeed, several death scenes are posted online—posthumously by Marina on Laura's Facebook page—much to the shock, anger and disgust of Laura's dwindling number of online friends.

Marina's beaten up by a couple of bullies in flashback, and at least one attack is accompanied by a splash of blood. Laura and others see apparitions of the two boys, their faces burned beyond recognition, loiter in various locales. (We learn that they died in a fire—one somehow caused by Marina, the film suggests.) Other mottled corpses show up on occasion. A hospitalized woman tears tubes out of her arms, leaving blood in their wake. Tyler, who's apparently training to be a doctor, examines a corpse with other students.

Crude or Profane Language

A dozen f-words, four s-words and a few other sporadic profanities, including one use each of "b--ch" and "h---." Jesus' name is abused 10 times, and God's name is misused twice.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Laura's a college sophomore, and thus presumably 19 or 20 if she jumped into college right after high school. No matter: We see loads of pictures of this presumably underage girl and her presumably underage friends getting drunk—swilling drinks at bars and quaffing beverages in the backs of limos. At Laura's birthday party, everyone drinks wine.

When someone dies tragically and mysteriously, Tyler asks Laura if the young man was "on something."

Other Negative Elements

A Barbie-themed birthday cake topper shows a woman apparently retching into a candy-filled toilet.

Marina's hood falls away and reveals that the crown of her head has been plucked free of hair, indicating a serious psychological condition.

Conclusion

You know that kid sitting at the end of the cafeteria table, eating by himself? Or the one who always walks home alone? That boy or girl, man or woman who always looks lonely? Like they could use a friend? Well, Friend Request has this advice for anyone feeling sympathetic to such loners: Run! Run away as if your life depended on it, because it does ! Friendless people are evil and will surely kill you, all you hold dear and—worst of all—make you less popular on social media!

That's a pretty gutsy message to send these days.

Sure, we Christians have long been encouraged to befriend the friendless—to show folks that God made us and desperately wants to love us, no matter what we look like or what we might've done. Now, secular society increasingly values that, as well. Teens with Down syndrome are being elected homecoming queens. Unpopular kids with learning or behavioral disabilities are being swamped with thousands of notes of encouragement—often, it should be noted, on social networks. We're being encouraged to respect and even befriend outcasts—to accept those who may look and sound and feel a little different from us. And that, I think, is a pretty good thing.

Friend Request begs to differ. Laura tries to be nice, and what does she get for befriending someone different? Someone who wants to actually have a friend. Can't have that, can we? Let this be a lesson to you popular people: Hang out with other popular people for your own safety and social well-being.

But Paul, a fictional critic asks, brow furrowed, Marina's a witch! Are you saying that we should hang out with folks who regularly call upon the pit of darkness for solace and help?

No, fictional critic, I'm not saying that. If someone invites you to their coven, it'd be best, methinks, to decline.

But most folks who need a friend aren't witches: They just need a friend. They need help. They need us. And frankly, I think that Marina—even with her horrifying backstory—needed someone, too. Someone who showed enough interest in her to get the help she so clearly needed: a doctor. A pastor. Someone to tell her that there's a better way to live than the way she was doing it.

Friend Request is a dumb, salacious slasher flick: But it's a tragedy, too. On some level, I think that Friend Request actually understands this: Maybe Laura isn't quite as great as she thinks she is. But on another, more obvious level, it's a lame, dispiriting exercise in fear—and it tells us that the most frightening, dangerous thing in the world is someone who is different from us.

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Content Caution

Kids
Teens
Adults

Credits

Rating

R

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Alycia Debnam-Carey as Laura; William Moseley as Tyler; Connor Paolo as Kobe; Brit Morgan as Olivia; Brooke Markham as Isabel; Sean Marquette as Gustavo; Liesl Ahlers as Marina

Director

Simon Verhoeven ( )

Distributor

Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

September 22, 2017

On Video

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Paul Asay

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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