Thursday, 28 April 2016

Review: Friend Request

2016 Alycia Debnam-Carey, William Moseley, Liesl Ahlers

Friend Request is a cyber horror film that is constantly compared to 2014's Unfriended. While both films share similar themes in terms of cyber bullying and the inability for the youth of today to 'log off', they are in fact quite different films.

The plot centres around a college student named Laura, she is pretty, popular and has a bright future ahead of her. Like most students her age she is fully committed to all things social media. Laura's world is turned upside down when she fails to invite quiet loner Marina to her birthday party. After the troubled girl lashes out Laura unfriends her on Facebook and this pushes Marina to the edge.
Unable to take the rejection and the shame of returning to zero friends on Facebook, Marina decides to take her own life. It is this event that triggers are series of bizarre suicides all across the college campus. Laura and her friends begin to suspect Marina had dark secrets that could ultimately lead to their demise.

Friend Request is a difficult film to pin down, part horror, part social commentary it is constantly weaving from one style to another. Jump scares are abundant here and come thick and fast, yet there is depth and the audience is challenged where you least expect it. The film encapsulates the youth of today perfectly and has a lot to say about the pit falls and potential danger of social media addiction.

The characters are fairly typical but it is the character of Laura who grabs your attention. She is truly engrossed in documenting every aspect of her life and posting it on the internet. Her addiction and the addictions of her friends are their biggest weakness. The protagonist Marina exploit this to lethal ends. The audience may constantly ask themselves 'why don't they just turn off their phones!?'. That is exactly the point, even when their lives are in danger the characters are unable to remove themselves from the digital world and the hold it has over them. Friend Request got this message across loud and clear without having to explain the obvious or hold the audience's hand.

Scares are frequent and often here, some of them you may see coming, others will catch you off guard. Many people regard jump scares as a cheap and lazy, but there were prolonged scenes off tension here often with a rewarding fright.

The main flaw with this film is unfortunately its second half.  It almost abandons the social media angle in favour of a witch hunt style theme. This split the film down the middle and made for an uneven tone. This was a real shame because the most terrifying aspect was seeing the characters unable to disconnect and trying to gauge who was going to be slaughtered next. Once that hook was abandoned it sadly just felt like many other films in its genre.

The Verdict

Friend Request is an interesting, tense but also flawed cyber horror film. It offers a shock a minute and moves at nail bitingly steadily pace before showcasing the plot's big reveal. It is unfortunate that the film is let down by an inconsistent tone which breaks immersion some what and lessens the scare factor during the second half.


Sunday, 17 April 2016

Review: Emelie

2015, Sarah Bolger, Joshua Rush, 

A married couple hire a babysitter to watch their 3 children while they go out for an anniversary meal. The regular sitter is unavailable so they call upon the shy and reserved Emelie, little do they know that things will take a sinister turn once the children are left in her care...

Emelie is far from an original premise, however the film's strength lies in how that particular premise is executed. Right from the outset the viewer is put on edge, with Emelie's subtly increasing cruelty and a claustrophobic atmosphere the film grips you an doesn't let go.

A significant factor to the increase in tension is the fact that the danger is happening to children, this isn't a bunch of reckless college kids that messed with the wrong girl. The 3 children are a range of ages with the oldest being in his early teens. Emelie exacts acts of psychological cruelty to each child but in such a way that they don't really know its happening until after their ordeal. These acts gradually ramped up as the story progressed. We learn later on that these acts of cruelty are not just random, they are in fact tests for a much large more disturbing scheme. In one scene the oldest child catches Emelie on the toilet and is asked to open a tampon and hand it to her. Although this was such a simple scene it was like watching the build up to a murder, he was out of his comfort zone, embarrassed and vulnerable yet she revelled from it. These mind games were gripping if not frightening to watch.

These scenes are extremely effective because they relied on the naivety and innocence of childhood. The children complied because they had been taught to obey adults, they did these acts without question and even when they had doubts they were promptly pulled back into line.

The character of Emelie was surprisingly fleshed out which in sometimes quite rare within the horror genre. She had an interesting and dark back story which made her intentions realistic but certainly not any less disturbing. Emelie was a villain you could almost sympathise with, she was doing these horrific acts for a very dark but real reasons. The film portrayed her as very human and a villain some people may even be able to relate to which truly an alarming feat.

The Verdict

Emelie is a tense, well paced and claustrophobic horror thriller. With care and attention taken to flesh out key characters, the film shines in a crowded sub genre.