15 – 92mins – 2016
THE SATANIC NETWORK
Failing to learn from the fates which befell the screen-obsessed teens in Unfriended and Ratter, here’s yet another – albeit superior – slice of e-horror which taps into the zeitgeist’s paranoia of online privacy.
Beautiful and popular Psychology student Laura (Fear The Walking Dead’s Alycia Debnam-Carey – who continually reminded me of a young Vera Farmiga) rues the day she ever accepted the Facebook anonymous social media poking of lonely newcomer Marina (Liesel Ahlers), who morphs from profile stalker to vengeful techno-phantom when she takes Laura’s less-than-fervent reciprocation to heart and commits suicide after her sole follower clicks ‘unfriend’.
Beginning in a lecture on “Internet Addiction Disorder” and decking the pale, make up-less shy girl out in a drab grey hoodie and gifting her with a macabre love of posting gothic, nightmarish giffs, it could be argued that German director Simon Verhoeven’s topical horror is a little on-the-nose (or should that be ‘button’?), but Friend Request is more than proficient in delivering a rising sense of fear amongst Laura and her dwindling group of followers, successfully balancing narrative creepiness with some decent jump-scares.
As Marina’s ritualistic suicide video is mysteriously spread through Laura’s horrified network and her (physical) friends struggle to crack the code and work out exactly who the mysterious outcast was and why – or how – she is continuing to haunt them from beyond the grave, the body count begins to rise in spectacularly grisly fashion. It seems the waspish witch is determined to show Laura exactly what it means to be lonely…
“Unfriend that dead bitch!”
Impressively linking Marina’s creative – if creepy – cyber-animations into her sad and spooky cult-related backstory, Friend Request continued to impress the horror hound in me with some grotesque visuals and sympathising characterisation, sadly it is one CR@B follower shy of a four star film due to an unsatisfactorily cursor-y climax which sent the exponential narrative build-up to the Recycle Bin in favour of a final, lazy staccato shock.