Friend Request

Liesl Ahlers starts in the horror film "Friend Request."


There’s a little more to this serviceable horror flick than meets the eye.

To all appearances, it’s just another creepy movie about nice-looking young people being killed in horrific ways. But there’s something a little more substantial to “Friend Request” than you might imagine.

The story begins with Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey, television’s “Fear the Walking Dead”) sitting among other students in a college psychology class. When the professor announces that a student who was in the class has committed suicide, Laura has quite a reaction.

The story then flashes back to two weeks prior. We see Laura as a popular, happy student with a bevy of friends, including hundreds on Facebook, and a handsome boyfriend. She has noticed a shy girl in the psychology class who takes an interest in Laura.

During a class, the professor teases Laura and her friend about having “internet addiction disorder.” It’s about that time that the bashful Marina (Liesl Ahlers, television’s “The Crossing,”) a transfer student, makes Laura’s acquaintance.

Marina sits removed from the rest of the students, and hides under a black hoodie much of the time. The artistic student has no Facebook friends, but it’s evident that she spends a lot of time on Facebook, because her Facebook site contains a lot of disturbing images and creepy, albeit beautiful, animation.

After Laura accepts Marina’s friend request, Marina becomes needy and possessive. Disaster ensues.

Director Simon Verhoeven co-wrote the screenplay with Philip Koch and Matthew Ballen. These writers — or at least one of them — have a knack for bringing a bit of paranormal history and contemporary realism to the script.

Although the movie devolves into clichés and, ultimately, exactly the resolution we anticipate — it’s a lot like “Unfriended” — it has some intelligent and thought-provoking features.

Marina is well-written and will be familiar to many, if not most, viewers, especially to teachers (sadly, I have seen students like her in my own classrooms.)

The film also uses animation to a wonderful effect to create a chilling, surreal atmosphere. Some of the “Boo!” moments have been used in other horror movies, but some of them are pretty effective nonetheless. And I like the way Verhoeven creates claustrophobic environments.

Parents and guardians should be warned that this is not the “PG-13” material that it may seem to be. It’s hardcore “R” and is not suitable for children or the squeamish.

If you’ve already seen “It” and seek a few more scares before the Halloween horror shows hit the screen, you’ll find some scares and smarts here.