‘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.
‘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.
‘Friend Request’ stars: Alycia Debnam-Carey, William Moseley, Liesl Ahlers
Z: Its Presence Is Clearly Felt In Every Dark Grim Scene
Z likes it dark.
Movies with creepy little boys. With “Z” you also have the feeling you are getting yet another horror in which such a demonic boy is in command. Only recently I saw “The Prodigy” where the son of the house slowly develops a deviating pattern of behavior. That movie was about reincarnation. In “Z” it’s about having an imaginary friend. When Joshua Parsons (Jett Klyne) introduces his friend “Z” to his parents, they don’t really worry at first. They think it’s probably just a phase their kid has to struggle through. They even think it’s cute, in a certain way. Until suddenly school friends don’t want anything to do with Josh anymore, Elizabeth (Keegan Connor Tracy) becomes aware of strange things and finally, Joshua is also suspended from school because of intolerable behavior. At that moment, Elizabeth starts to realize that this imaginary friend has a tremendous influence on her sweet son.
Just an ordinary horror, I thought.
Until halfway through the film it seems like an ordinary average horror. Including, something terrible happening to one of Joshua’s school friends (with or without Z’s collaboration) and Joshua revealing a horrible drawing in his bedroom. Believe me. Draw a black top hat on the head of this scary creature and you have the twin brother of “The Babadook” in front of you. Now is the time for Elizabeth to sound the alarm, while dad Kevin (Sean Rogerson) is still in a phase of denial and suffers from utter blindness, and get in touch with psychologist Dr. Seager (Stephen McHattie) to present the problem. The well-known tricks from the horror genre are being used in “Z” of course. So again the shady spots with scary sounds. Toys that come to life. And nocturnal wanderings through the semi-darkness (while every sensible person would turn on the light anyway) with a few jump-scares as a result. Even a creepy bath scene couldn’t fail to come.
Hey, it turns out to be completely something different.
And yet the film cleverly changes the mood and shifts the focus from a scary invisible friend to a long-forgotten childhood trauma that set the whole mechanism in motion. And before you realize it, the creepy horror story has given way to a sort of psychological thriller. From here, Joshua is no longer central, but the story focuses on Elizabeth. And frankly, the way Keegan Connor Tracy gives shape to this character was of exceptionally high level. An obviously confused person who slowly but surely sinks further into complete madness as a tormented soul. The father’s character contrasts sharply with that of his family members. In the end, I found it a meaningless person and quite implausible as a father figure. On the one hand, he said nothing about the red notes from school that exposed Joshua’s misconduct. On the other hand, he’s blind with anger when hearing that his son has been prescribed medication without his knowledge. Ah, as always in horror movies, it’s usually the fathers who navigate through the story carefree and never notice anything suspicious. It’s usually the mother figure who experiences strange sensations and concludes that disaster is imminent.
It’s not such a scary movie.
I can’t say the film “Z” was really scary. Maybe deliberately not depicting the phenomenon “Z” explicitly, does cause some tension. A cleverly applied gimmick so the viewer’s imagination has to do most of the work (with a terrifying wall drawing as inspiration). Ultimately, it’s mainly the mood that’s essential in this film. In hindsight, the film covers different topics. Youthful growing pains and parental concerns. Nightmarish phantoms and unresolved trauma. As a parent, you expect your offspring to inherit some of your character traits or personal qualities. However, in “Z” this legacy is not something you’d expect. And even though this delusion isn’t excessively visualized here, its presence is clearly felt in every dark, grim scene.
My rating 6/10
El Hoyo: A Bizarre Story That Leaves You With An Oppressive Feeling
Don’t speak to the people below. Why?
Because they’re down below.
The people above won’t answer you. Why?
Because they’re above.
“El Hoyo” is not just a frightening movie. It’s a movie with a moral. A film that makes you think. Could you call it horror? You could have an extensive discussion about this. For some of the detainees who are locked up in the prison portrayed in this film, it’s indeed horror. It depends on which floor they end up after a month of extensive eating or a month of terrible hunger. The first thing that came to mind was “Hey, they designed a vertical “Snowpiercer”. Be warned though. It’s brutal. Confronting. And as I said before, a moral lurks beneath the symbolic surface.
A platform filled with delicious food.
However, the set-up of the film is very simple. Take a sky-high building. A magically moving platform (hence the movie title). A group of convicts who are locked in groups of two on each floor. Finally, you establish a culinary department full of kitchen staff who all master the right culinary skills. And this department ensures that this platform is filled with delicacies every day with the same dose of enthusiasm, dedication, and love for their profession. From roasts, fruit bowls, and enormous chocolate cakes to haute cuisine with langoustines, lobster, and other gastronomically refined food. You can guess the outcome. As the platform sinks, the richly filled table turns into a desolate table full of empty dishes, pots, and smashed dinnerware, where you can’t even find a crumb on anymore.
Can you break the system?
Despite the simple concept and the fact that the entire film is set in one location, the film remains fascinating until the end. The denouement, however, is rather disappointing. That’s the only thing that put a damper on this film. Not that everything is very clear in this film. Why this facility has been designed in this way, isn’t explained anywhere. Is it to talk a conscience into the viewers? Is it a psychologically justified experiment? Or was there just someone random who came up with this brilliant idea to design this alternative penal institution? Besides, it’s not only convicts who were admitted here. Take Goreng (Ivan Massagué). This person will receive a diploma (as a social worker?) after serving a 6-month prison sentence. Is it a form of an internship? Or self-flagellation? Even the mechanism behind the falling platform remained a mystery to me. But I got no problem with these unresolved questions. Unfortunately, the main question of how the system could be beaten is left unanswered. Or was it just the intention to leave everyone in the dark?
Let’s make it a better place.
It’s crystal clear they tried to deliver a socially critical message. It’s broadly an allegorical representation of our contemporary society. A society with an unfair distribution of prosperity and richness. And the vast majority of those who own the most wealth in our society, are disinclined to share it with those of the lower classes. And the plea of the less fortunate falls on deaf ears, so they are doomed to rely on less humane practices. And, of course, there are the world improvers among us and people thinking they are a newborn St. Martin, who make frantic efforts to convince others to participate in working on a better world and to call for solidarity. A fairer world. And mocking laughter and derision are usually the results of their efforts. The only difference with real life is that people change in the social ladder from month to month in this prison. Some in a positive, others in a negative way.
Bizarre and repugnant.
“El Hoyo” is a bizarre story that leaves you with an oppressive feeling. As the film progresses you realize how awful it is for some in this gray, grim tower. And these abject conditions are also explicitly shown. Suffocatingly realistic. So expect some bloody and gory images full of excessive violence as well (not suitable for sensitive souls). For some, the sight of men eating food like animals (which reminded me a bit of “La Grande Bouffe”), it will be repugnant already. But otherwise, this original film is easy to digest (just to stay with the subject). And not only because of the splendid acting. It’s not without reason that the film is a great success on Netflix. So you can see that this film platform occasionally programs better movies.
My rating 7/10
A Night of Horror : Nightmare Radio | There’s Something For Everyone
Are you a fan of horror anthology films (such as “Tales from the crypt“, “Creepshow“, “Tales of Halloween”, “XX” or “Tale of Tales”)? Well, you might as well like this movie. Provided you are not an avid lover of short films and continuously seek for horror short films on YouTube or other channels. Because then it may well be that you’ve already seen a few of the films that are used in “A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio“. This anthology isn’t a collection of newly made short films. It’s a collection of pre-existing short films. And these are all connected through a central storyline with DJ Rod Wilson (James Wright) who broadcasts a night program on some local radio station. A program in which he (and also a few nightly callers) tries to delight listeners with some chilling and creepy ghostly stories. It’s not Halloween yet, but it would be a suitable movie for that period of the year.
“Post Mortem Mary” is an eye-opener (no pun intended).
Frankly, I thought the beginning of the film looked very promising and exciting. The first short (“In the Dark Dark Woods”, a sort of alternative version of “The Invisible Man”) and the introduction of the bearded, radio guy gave me a taste for more. And when the second short story (highlight of the whole movie and my absolute favorite) was over, I was already getting ready for even more of that. “Post Mortem Mary” isn’t only fantastic in terms of content. The handling of the camera, the way in which the story was portrayed and the ever-rising suspense in this excruciatingly exciting short story, produced a very successful end result. It’s the story of a mother and her young daughter Mary earning their living in Australia in 1840 as post-mortem photographers. The idea is to photograph the corpse as vividly as possible. Something Mary has yet to learn. It’s a fantastic short film that was well received at some festivals in 2017 and won some prizes worldwide.
More stories to come.
Unfortunately, none of the subsequent stories reached the same level as the previous short films. Not that they were awfully bad or of a sadly low level. But “Post Mortem Mary” is head and shoulders above the rest. “A little off the Top” is a bit of a sinister story that focuses on the insanity (Or craftiness. It’s just how you look at it) of a hairdresser. “Drops” demonstrates how a traumatic experience torments a Spanish young dancer. I thought “The Disappearance of Willie Bingham” was kind of successful. A somewhat different story about how a death penalty is converted into a more alternative punishment. In my view a fairly funny story. “The smiling man” undoubtedly deserves a place behind Mary’s story. Concise and terrifying at the same time. Without too much fuss. The final short films “Into the Mud” and “Vicius” were, in my opinion, the weakest ones.
Diversity and Quality. What more do you want?
The fact is that by making a selection of existing short films in “A Night of Horror: Nightmare Radio“, the quality level is very high. None of the stories gives you the feeling as if they were quickly produced, such that the intended playing time of the feature-length film could be reached. Another advantage is that the movie scores well in terms of diversity. There’s something for everyone. Only “Into the Mud” (a kind of mythologically oriented fantasy story) feels a little bit like the odd one out here. The only downside was the overarching story of the DJ himself. First of all, I didn’t think it was convincing enough. It even felt a bit boring. And the denouement was a bit of an anti-climax. Yet to my surprise, I enjoyed this movie more than I expected. So if you feel like hearing some scary, paranormal stories with a lurid touch, then you’ll be fine with this film.