AKA Unfriend, not to be confused with Unfriended
A cynical piece of social media-propped soft-horror, Friend Request boasts very little in the way of genuine thrills and has zero innovation – with even its Facebook usage feeling outdated.When films like The Shallows deliver visually far better social media interaction as well as genuine thrills, you wonder how features like this get greenlit – let alone see the inside of cinemas. Indeed, although ostensibly boasting an 'original' screenplay, the film – originally called Unfriend (and still going by that title in some foreign territories, including Germany, where it was produced) – bears a striking narrative resemblance to 2014's Unfriended. Both are about strange outcast teen girls seemingly committing suicide after being 'embarrassed' by their peers in social setting, and then through the internet, plaguing their oppressors with increasingly horrible retaliations - again seemingly - from beyond the grave. Although largely uncredited, it would appear that the German-produced Friend Request is actually an outright remake of the US-produced Unfriended, however the fact that both are the same story, and both with an English-speaking US cast, leaves the end result painfully familiar.It wasn't a story many people wanted once, let alone twice, but the popularity of the 2014 original somehow sparked enough interest in Germany, so here we are. German filmmaker Simon Verhoeven, unrelated to the Dutch Paul Verhoeven, has yet to distinguish himself as a director, with this, his third film, lacking any redeeming features. Almost halfway in and the biggest scare is from a mildly surprising fake cat video that the characters watch on Facebook. Everything else is just watered down, lightweight and lacking tension - a horror story walking in the shadow of better films like The Ring. Friend Request doesn't really even warrant being included in the horror genre, and would have fared better taking a more psychological approach to the subject matter, with the game but limited cast struggling to juggle their shock as the cybernatural events get increasingly silly, and any appeal for this lightweight Scream TV series-meets-Pretty Little Liars TV series enterprise waning swiftly across its runtime.
Picture QualityFriend Request boasts solid albeit unexceptional video
The 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition presentation, framed in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen, does a solid job with the material. We get some notional detail particularly on facial and clothing close-ups but the image is inherently limited by the style and design of the piece, which is draped in a horror-look; a dour, grey, washed-out affair almost robbed of any colour and vibrancy. Black levels remain mostly intact, with only some slight banding taking the edge off. Overall there's nothing here that could be used for demo purposes, but the presentation suits the film nonetheless.
Sound QualityThe accompanying soundtrack does a good job too
With dialogue firmly prioritised across the front and centre channels, and rising above the remaining elements on the track, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 offering delivers well-observed effects and a suitably engaging – though ultimately utterly forgettable – background score. The former come mainly in the form of either facebook/computer-related electronic noises, or, later a few more overt jump scares, whilst the score attempts to heighten the tension but, more often than not, merely telegraphs it.
ExtrasA bare-bones disc is the least of the problems with this film.
Blu-ray VerdictBilled as "The Ring for the Snapchat Generation", that just about sums up this woefully unnecessary enterprise
A sort-of remake of a reworking of a remake, Friend Request boasts very little positives beyond a limited appeal to those who enjoyed the original, Unfriended, as well as the aforementioned TV shows, Scream and Pretty Little Liars, which both boast that same haunted/hunted by a seemingly dead peer horror narrative approach. The Blu-ray release does a solid job with the material but even those who like all of the above should consider a rental first.
You can buy Friend Request on Blu-ray here
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