FRIEND REQUEST (2017) Movie Preview
CHRIST IN CULTURE
Popular college student Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey) has tons of friends, both on Facebook and IRL. She graciously accepts social outcast Marina’s (Liesl Ahlers) online friend request, until Marina crosses the line and Laura unfriends her. To everyone’s shock, Marina takes her own life in a ritual meant to torment Laura, which appears in a video posted on Laura’s profile. Even though it wasn’t Laura who posted the video, or other creepy content that begins appearing on her page, her Facebook friend count begins to dwindle as a result. When her real-life friends start dying mysterious, cruel deaths, Laura must figure out how to break the deadly curse before it’s too late.
Release date: September 22, 2017
Studio: Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures
Director: Simon Verhoeven
MPAA Rating: R (for horror violence, disturbing images, and language)
Screenwriters: Matthew Ballen, Philip Koch, Simon Verhoeven
Starring: Alycia Debnam-Carey, William Moseley, Connor Paolo
Official website: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram
About the Production
The inspiration for Friend Request struck one night when German filmmaker Simon Verhoeven was at home checking his Facebook page. "It was a few weeks after one of my friends died," Verhoeven recalls. "I got a new message and started thinking it would be pretty freaky if this message were from my dead friend. All of a sudden I got goosebumps and thought 'Okay, this is a topic for a horror film.' "
Verhoeven, who wrote and directed the European action hit City of Men, winner of the 2010 Jupiter Award for Best Film, teamed with American writer Matthew Ballen and German scribe Philip Koch (Picco) to flesh out the concept of a haunted online community. "We live in a world where so-called friends click through massive amounts of information," says Verhoeven. "As a result, it's so simple to amass hundreds of followers who are not real friends. In this online arena, the likelihood of falling prey to illusions, or even delusions, is heightened."
Friend Request's story centers on those delusions. "Our particular film is about Marina's 'best friend' Laura, who is anything but that," Verhoeven says. "In a flash, this leads to catastrophe when the friendship transforms into disappointment and rage. From there, we infuse the little things that occur on Facebook with horror. Profiles leave tracks. They consist of all these photos and posts that can be like answers to a puzzle."
As a foundation for the supernatural aspects of the story, the writers incorporated the ancient legend of the "Black Mirror." As described in occult lore, including the 15th-century text Munich Manual of Demonic Magic, black mirrors are supposedly portals to other dimensions. Through the ritual of "scrying," devil worshipers go into a trance state and stare at a reflective service to contact demonic spirits. In Friend Request, Marina's ghost uses the "Black Mirror" ritual to terrorize Laura and her friends, partly through Facebook posts. "We wanted to tell an occult mystery story that could be transmitted through social media," Verhoeven says. "Those two ideas intrigued us, so we tried to combine them in our script."
Oscar-winning producers Max Wiedemann and Quirin Berg (The Lives of Others), who worked on several previous Verhoeven projects, were intrigued by the filmmaker's updated take on traditional horror. "We didn't set out to portray social media in an overly critical light," says Wiedemann. "It's more about taking this theme that's familiar to everybody and using it as an engine for the story. Simon is a very observant filmmaker and this script is great at showing real moments of life on the internet and the discovering that a social life online also has its dark side."
After reading the screenplay Berg was confident the online horror premise would resonate with audiences around the world. "When Simon told us the idea, it seemed like an exciting challenge to make the film with German talent while aiming for a global, international audience," he says. "Classic horror is often set in a 'comfort zone' where we feel most safe. Well, the comfort zone of our times is our social network, the digital extension of our home. It seemed like a fascinating setting for a different kind of horror film."