HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: FRIEND REQUEST (2016)

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FRIEND REQUEST (2016)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

German horror filmed in English has pretty college student Laura Woodson (Alycia Debnam-Carey, The Devil’s Hand and Fear The Walking Dead) feeling sorry for lonely, withdrawn Marina (Liesl Ahlers) at school and befriending her on her social media account (which we assume is Facebook although the name is never given). Laura soon finds out Marina is emotionally unbalanced as the young woman begins to become obsessed with her. She “unfriends” the strange girl which pushes Marina over the edge and thus, she commits suicide. This only makes things worse, as Marina now stalks Laura as some kind of malevolence presence and worse still, is one by one killing her friends and posting videos of their gruesome deaths to Laura’s social media page. As everyone she knows begins to grow fearful of her, Laura begins a quest to find out who this mysterious girl really was and why she has such dark power from beyond the grave…but will she find out in time?

Script by Matthew Ballen, Philip Koch and director Simon Verhoeven (no relation to Robocop’s Paul) offers nothing new especially in this age of cyber-themed horror and thrillers. Film’s story has elements of similar movies such as the recent Unfriended, Ratter and Dark Summer, but effective direction from Verhoeven actually makes it work better than you might expect. He does create atmosphere and there are some spooky moments, as well as, some disturbing ones, too. The deaths of Laura’s friends have impact and the jump scares are well done and not overused. There are also a few clever bits like maintaining a countdown of the friends Laura loses on social media as the spirit continues to manipulate her account and kill those close to her. The director also gets some decent work out of his cast with Alycia Debnam-Carey making a suitable and likable heroine and Ahlers making for a creepy goth girl in her brief scenes early on. The film can be a bit formula as haunting flicks go and the ending is exactly where you expect it to end up, but the ride getting there is entertaining enough to past the time without feeling like a waste of it.

Not a great movie, or even an original one, but it is well made enough to get by. It is routine as both cyber-horror and haunting flicks go, especially more recent ones, but has enough atmosphere and effective moments to make it worth a look if you find yourself sitting on the couch with nothing to watch. The attractive cash also includes Brit Morgan, Brooke Markham, Connor Paolo, Sean Marquette and William Moseley as Laura’s friends and love interest respectively.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 lap tops.

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BARE BONES: THE DEVIL’S HAND and THE SKELETON TWINS

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THE DEVIL’S HAND (2014)

While presented in all seriousness by director Christian E. Christiansen, from Karl Mueller’s script, this Amish set slasher/supernatural horror comes across as fairly silly and very cliché. The story has a prophecy of a coming evil being fulfilled when six girls are born on the same night, in the same Amish village on the sixth day of the sixth month. One mother fearing she has unleashed this evil, murders her child, but the other five are left to be. We pick up as they all are about to turn 18 and now someone…or something…is killing them off. Film is actually fairly well directed, but just can’t rise above the familiarity of these type of ancient prophecy flicks such as the village elder (Colm Meaney phoning it in) using his people’s fear to control them and the rebellious girl (Alycia Debnam-Carey) breaking the rules to investigate…and date a boy from the outside. We’ve seen it all before and better. It was never boring, but never scary or suspenseful either. Also stars Dexter‘s Jennifer Carpenter who visibly looks like she would rather be anywhere else but in this movie. The young cast members, including Adelaide Kane, give it their all and there is some decent bloodshed, so that helps a bit. Not unwatchable, just nothing special.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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THE SKELETON TWINS (2014)

Directed by Craig Johnson, from a script he co-wrote with Mark Heyman, this indie comedy/drama follows the indie formula fairly closely by inhabiting an emotion-filled story with eccentric and dysfunctional characters on a journey to discover themselves. It is the story of estranged twins, the suicidal Milo (Bill Hader) and the married but unfaithful Maggie (Kristen Wiig), who are reunited when Milo attempts to kill himself. Milo comes to upstate New York to live with Maggie and her clueless husband (Luke Wilson) and they learn to love themselves and each other. And as in a lot of these films, there are some character revelations, but ultimately the film really doesn’t go anywhere story wise, though it’s not really meant to. While I found a lot of it to be cliché for these type of flicks, even though I do have a soft spot for indie films, I did find it worth watching for the acting from Hader and Wiig and the film is never dull and can be subtly funny at times. The two leads are superb and both play roles a bit different than we are used to seeing them in and they have great chemistry together and it makes all the clichés work. So, I recommend it for an enjoyable 90+ minutes of two underrated performers creating two very offbeat, but ultimately likable characters and personally I loved all the Nyack, New York locations, especially during the Halloween set sequences.

3 star rating

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