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Friend Request (Blu-ray Review)

2017 has been a banner year for the horror genre both with critical acclaim, audience adoration and big box office intake. As a matter of fact, that’s one of the bigger stories of 2017 in how huge horror has been. Whether it be confirming of brand trust recognition with horror profiteering masters Blumhouse or the massive success of the cinematic adaptation of Stephen King’s IT, everyone has seen some success. Everyone, except this movie Friend Request that I’m covering today. While English language and released this past September, its actually a 2016 English Language German film. Maybe Lionsgate just picked it up to roll the dice on just having a low budget, teen-friendly horror film to grab a couple dollars with. I don’t know how much their acquisition valued at, but the box office probably didn’t cover it. So now, they look toward this Blu-ray that releases on January 9th to probably recoup.

Film 

Laura is a popular college student who lives her college life to the fullest and gladly shares it with her 800 Facebook friends. But when she accepts a friend request from her mysterious classmate Marina, she unwittingly sets a terrible curse in motion. The dead girl’s impenetrable profile begins to drive Laura into isolation. It takes control of Laura’s virtual world and her real life as well. One after another, her closest friends die horrendous deaths, leaving Laura with only a few days to solve the enigma of this haunting curse to save the few friends she has left, as well as her own life.

Friend Request is actually the International title of this film. So, thinking it was some sort of grab at a hot trend like horror typically does (And something I do find absolutely charming no matter if I like the films or not), its actually not the case. Originally, in Germany, this was made an release as Unfriended. Well, if you remember correctly, we already have a film by that title, so it had to be changed. Naturally, the next logical place to go and strike that same sort of audience familiarity would be Friend Request. Unfriended deserved the right to have that title though as its the much better movie of the two.

I will admit, there are some pretty cool ideas in a few places and some really cool visuals found in this movie at times. Unfortunately, pretty much none of it is built upon or explored. And the interesting visuals aren’t in there enough to turn in this into some “Screw the plot, lets enjoy a visual wonder”. They leave you wanting more because you’re desperate to get something out of this dumb movie. Outside of some of these visuals, the film is about as generic and expected as they come when looking at it and sitting through the thing.

Friend Request finds itself guilty of just being a complete joyless fair to watch. And no, horror isn’t supposed to be a “joy”, but there are things to do that give a certain elation that is expected in a horror movie. Our main characters here are all very tough to swallow, coming off as a bunch of jerks. This includes the final girl of the movie played by Alycia Debnam-Carey of Fear The Walking Dead fame (A show, like this movie, that has taken precious time from me that I’ll never get back in life). Our story itself finds itself jumping from trope to trope until we get to the finish line.  There are no real memorable jumps or sequences in the movie to speak of. This thing is just plain guilty of not being scary or thrilling or even fun.

There’s a hint as to something or maybe talent hidden underneath the film. Or maybe its just dumb luck, the little things I could pull to say kindly for this movie. Friend Request is a pretty big chore to sit and make it all the way through the film. It doesn’t even satisfy as a bag of horror Doritos. When you get the notification, its okay to ignore this Friend Request.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Layers: BD-25

Clarity/Detail: Friend Request comes with a pretty rock solid transfer. Its a crisp image that maybe could have been a just a hair sharper. Details and are strong enough with some good visible textures that show through in medium and close up shots very well. There’s some room for improvement that is never going to happen, but this is as good as this film needs to have in order to be at its most effective (If you find the movie to be at all effective in any way).

Depth:  Solid dimensional work in the image. Background and foreground feel good separation with characters freely moving naturally with minimal blur or jitter error.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and decently saturated. Much of the details hold on when closer up, but information in the shadows or on clothing and surfaces can be lost the more we pull back. I did notice some crushing on the dark of the shadowy wall when a character leaves the bathroom to go searching for what made a noise in their apartment (yes, of course that happens in this movie).

Color Reproduction: Colors err on the said of being natural, if not toned down just a hair. They all come on rather full and with a good palette and tint. Much of the film doesn’t revolve around a lot of flashy areas, very rustic, wood-paneled places with much attention on browns and similar outputs. Of any color that really gets any sort of pop, it would be blue. In fact there is one scene that features a strong blue pant strip on a wall, while our characters sit in blue chairs and they all are wearing different shades of denim pants and jackets while visiting a friend in a hospital bed with blue sheets and hospital gown.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones a little on the cold side of things with a consistent appearance from start to finish. Facial details, including the graphic make-up effects, show good texture in medium and closeup shots.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: Friend Request comes with a crisp and pounding 5.1 track. It has a really loose and clean mix when it comes to the vocals and natural effects in the film.  All of them with good texture, depth and layer put in to make them sound quite natural. The soundscapes and score of the film is a bit intrusive and will just beat in and out of scenes much louder to than the natural order of things at the time. Its by design as to force a reaction or discomfort the viewer, so its not by error or accident. This gets the job done, even if the mix is designed to grab a few cheap jumps out of you (Not different from a lot of horror).

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: The sub pulsates strong and pulsates often. Bass in the score or music playing get a good groove going. Soundscaping in this mix includes some real jump hits, pounding moments and sweeping transitions that rumble.  In fact, its quite overdone to be honest.

Surround Sound Presentation: Friend Request hangs out at the front a lot, but there are some good sounds to go with ambient filler in the rears. Movements, position and volume placement are all accurate to the on screen activity.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are crisp and clean with good volume always clear and audible no matter how loud the situation can get.

Extras 

Friend Request comes with an UltraViolet digital copy of the film.

Friend Request: The Social Nightmare (HD, 11:22) – A pretty general little making of that is composed of clips from the film and on-set interviews with the cast and crew. Its softball, but its okay for the little background on where they were coming from with the overall idea.

Summary 

Friend Request tries its hand at a modern concept for teens and youth to jump in their seats to. And maybe they do, but this more or less is your run of the mill junky studio horror film to get a nice 1-weekend take and exit the theater after people realize the jig is up. In terms of Blu-ray performance, its very good, with an effective and in your face 5.1 track to go with a solid image. The bonus feature is generic. Overall, if you like the film, I’d say this release is worth picking up on a bargain bin find or a $5 Amazon sale.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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