Thank God I Listened to My Gut
Main Cast: Alycia Debnam-Carey and Liesl Ahlers
Director: Simon Verhoeven
Man, I feel old. I mean I feel OLD!!! When did horror movies stop being for ME? Used to be, it seemed every horror movie to hit theaters might as well have a big text block upfront that read: C. Dennis Moore, we made this just for you!
And now look at me. I’m reviewing a movie I avoided seeing in theaters because I could tell from the trailer it was a Netflix or cable movie, NOT something I wanted to shell out an extra $50 for. And thank God I listened to my gut, because DAMN!
So, Friend Request is about pretty and popular Laura Something-or-other (Alycia Debnam-Carey, “The 100”, “Fear the Walking Dead”) who has hundreds of friends on an anonymous, unnamed social media site that looks an awful lot like Facebook. One day she makes eye contact with the girl who sits at the back of her psych class, or some class, I don’t remember which class it was, but it was definitely a college class and the topic they were studying was internet addiction. Anyway, Laura and this girl, Marina (Liesl Ahlers, “Thysnywerheid”), make eye contact and later that day, or the next day, but probably later that day …
Wait, you know what, I already forgot how the thing starts. So the movie OPENS in this class and the teacher tells the students that this girl, Marina, has killed herself. Cut to Laura looking all shocked and upset, then we flash back two weeks to Laura and Marina making eye contact and later on Marina, who has ZERO friends on Facebook, sends Laura a friend request.
Laura checks out some of the art this girl makes on her page and finds it interesting, so she okays the request and the next day Laura and Marina have lunch together and take a walk and get to know each other. Did they have lunch? I feel like they would have had lunch. I know they definitely took a walk, though.
So Laura’s birthday is coming up and Marina is starting to feel a little too clingy and invites herself to Laura’s birthday party. Laura, who finds the constant messages and posts a little suffocating–understandably–tells Marina it’s just going to be Laura and her boyfriend, Tyler, at the party. But then all the friends who have gathered for Laura’s party start posting pictures of the party like a bunch of attention-obsessed millennials, Marina sees this, because unfortunately Laura’s friends weren’t posting the pics on the SECRET internet, and Marina confronts Laura the next day.
Why’d you lie to me? I thought we were friends. Would it have killed Laura to just say, “Look, it was a surprise party, I didn’t know they’d all be there,” which probably says more about me than it does Laura, but whatever.
So it’s two weeks later and Marina has killed herself. And it’s tragic and all but then the video of her suicide shows up on Laura’s Not Facebook page. She’s getting flack from all sides, why’d you post this, how could you, etc, etc. She tries to remove the video, but keeps getting an error message. She tries to delete her account, but gets an error message.
And the bodies start to pile up. Everyone in Laura’s birthday photo is being picked off in some very strange and unexplainable deaths, but there’s no evidence to suggest Laura might be responsible, but stuff keeps popping up on her Look at Me Page, and she’s slowly seeing a decline in the number of people on her friends list.
Which is exactly what Marina wanted, spelled out specifically in the suicide video she had sent to Laura, in which she told her she’s going to show Laura how it feels to be alone.
So now we get to the part of the movie where we’re just rehashing everything from the original RING remake with Naomi Watts where the main character has to race against time to track down the weird girl’s origins and try to stop the killing.
And my God it takes FOREVER. The movie’s only 92 minutes, but WELL into the action, I remember checking the time and seeing I still had an hour to go. And at the point where SURELY things are winding down, another clock check revealed I was still THIRTY MINUTES from the end of the movie. What more was there???? HOW is this movie still going?
Written by Philip Koch and Matthew Ballen–no, I have no idea who they are–and directed by Simon Verhoeven (Feiertag, The Miracle of Bern, Girls on Top 2–these are acting credits, not directing credits; he has way more of these than the other), Friend Request was NOT made for a 45-year-old man with 44 years of horror movie experience under his belt. At best, this was made for middle school girls who are just discovering the joys of horror cinema but have no real basis for comparison. They’re not going to watch this and say well, it wasn’t as good as The Ring, which it is so obviously copying. They won’t say You know, it looked like a slicker, less gritty version of that crappy Pulse remake from, what, over a decade ago. At best, what they MIGHT say is, See that’s why you don’t try to be friends with the weirdo at the back of the class.
Excellent job guys, you’re really helping out with the bullying problem in this country.
Hopefully their next collaboration will be about someone letting an immigrant into the country, then deciding they don’t want to let them in and the immigrant, who will be Mexican, but will never be called Mexican, will then kill themselves in a black magic ritual and start killing off the main character’s closet friends. Lesson: never let a foreigner into the country.
Coming soon from the team that brought us Friend Request.
The acting. Meh. It was there, I guess. No one stood out as being any better than anyone else, or any worse than the rest of the cast. That’s not praise; they were all pretty bland. Debnam-Carey pulls off the popular, pretty party girl who WANTED to do the right thing, then realized she was in over her head and panicked, and then things went downhill after that. But I feel like all the flaws in that character were written into it and she had no say in the incredibly dumb decisions Laura made.
Basically we’ve got a movie about young, pretty people living young, pretty lives in young, pretty surroundings where not a speck of dust ever lands on a bookshelf, the trash is always empty and the laundry magically washes, dries, and folds itself. And then one day, through NO fault of anyone but the killer’s own demented brain, people get hurt. Woe is them.
Jesus, 1130 words so far in this review and I don’t think any of them properly convey the blandness of this movie. Not even those words right there. And I have to wonder if that’s because it really WASN’T made for me and my generation, or do even the kids think this movie was a waste of time and money. God, I hope they realize that and we start seeing some smart, scary, quality horror movies again. Fingers crossed.
C. Dennis Moore is the author of over 60 published short stories and novellas in the speculative fiction genre. Most recent appearances were in the Dark Highlands 2, What Fears Become, Dead Bait 3 and Dark Highways anthologies. His novels are Revelations, and the Angel Hill stories, The Man in the Window, The Third Floor, The Ghosts of Mertland and The Flip. He is writing another Angel Hill novel called Return to Angel Hill with co-author David Bain.