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‘Friend Request’ should not be accepted

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As much as we might like to believe that the movie business is about creating quality entertainment for audiences, the reality is right there in the term – it’s a business. With very few exceptions, it’s all about that sweet, sweet box office cash.

A lot of that cash comes from blockbuster franchises, it’s true. But there are other ways for studios to boost their bottom lines. Jason Blum and his Blumhouse Productions have locked down one such way – the low-budget horror movie. These films don’t do massive returns, but with tiny budgets and minimal marketing costs, they don’t have to have huge numbers to turn a profit.

They also don’t have to be any good.

The latest example is “Friend Request.” You might vaguely recognize one or two of the movie’s stars. You won’t recognize the names of the director or the screenwriters at all. It’s a threadbare story featuring questionable effects and a whole lot of plot holes and narrative nonsense. It’s a transparent effort to try and update the classic low-rent teen horror flick for a new generation – one that fails on just about every possible level.

Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey, TV’s “Fear the Walking Dead”) is a college sophomore, one of the most popular girls in school. She and her roommates Olivia (Brit Morgan, TV’s “Graceland”) and Isabel (Brooke Markham, TV’s “Foursome”) are social royalty. Laura’s got a med student boyfriend named Tyler (William Moseley, TV’s “The Royals”) and the world at her feet.

But when a strange new girl named Marina (Liesl Ahlers in her feature debut) enters her life, things get strange. Laura accepts a friend request from Marina on a social media platform (that is definitely not Facebook *wink*), only to find herself overwhelmed by the bizarre neediness expressed by the new girl. After an unfortunate confrontation in the dining hall, Laura unfriends Marina, who proceeds to take her own life.

But she’s not gone.

In an effort at revenge from beyond the grave – an effort to show Laura what it means to be lonely – Marina’s vengeful spirit begins attacking those closest to Laura and using social media to make Laura out to be a truly reprehensible person.

Only a few people – Laura’s roommates, Tyler, the friendzoned Kobe (Connor Paolo, “Outlaw”) – believe her. As those closest to her start to succumb to the horrifying visions that are apparently being transmitted through assorted screens, it’s left to Laura to try and stop Marina’s supernatural rampage before it is too late.

“Friend Request” is a bad movie. It is unengaging on just about every level. The characters are flat and/or unlikable. The story is thin and uninteresting. Despite a brisk 92-minute runtime, it feels interminable. Jump scares are scattered throughout; it’s a clear crutch executed by filmmakers who have little idea of what it means to actually make something scary. The effects are clunky and the performances are listless and unremarkable.

Like I said – bad.

“Friend Request” doesn’t even effectively utilize the social media-based tech dependence that is ostensibly its raison d’etre. Obviously intended as a 21st century version of the ubiquitous pulpy/campy teen horror movies of decades past, it utterly fails in that capacity. All of the pieces are ill-fitted, with the end result a dull slog through lazy, paint-by-numbers “scares.”

I’m not going to bother with any of the names of the actors in this cast. Their names don’t matter. Nothing they do matters. They are blandly attractive and all read as roughly a decade too old for the parts that they’re playing. It’s all heavy lids and histrionics. They wander through the story with dead, joyless eyes; everyone is listless and distracted and clearly regretting their decision to become involved with this steaming pile of not-scary. By the time you’ve checked your watch for the fifth or sixth time, you’ll be wishing that the stupid internet witch or whatever she is would just finish killing everyone and put us all out of our misery.

This movie is boring. It is bland. It is not the least bit frightening. It is not well-made. The performances are terrible and the aesthetic is worse. There are zero redeeming qualities.

You suck, “Friend Request.” Delete your account.

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