Saturday, August 31, 2013

Among Friends Review

I recently sat down to check out the directorial debut of Danielle Harris, Among Friends. Danielle definitely has some serious horror cred, from her role as Jamie way back in Halloween 4 and 5, all the way up to her portrayal of Marybeth in Hatchet 2 and 3, to say she's a staple of the genre would be an understatement. With a resume like that, I had high hopes for her latest directorial effort. The results were mixed.

Among Friends begins with a group of old high school friends planning a little 80's themed reunion party. When they arrive, the party's host Bernadette (Alyssa Lobit) informs them that they will all be taking part in a little game of Whodunit. As the game begins, things begin to take a dark turn for the worse, as the attendees are forced to look at themeselves and their relationships with each other in a different light, as their "behind closed doors" actions are on display. Bernadette knows all their dirty secrets, and plans to make each of them pay for their sins. Of course, it's only a game though, right?

I came away from this one with mixed emotions. There were things I loved, and things I just didn't care for. The performances from the cast were all over the place, I thought Brianne Davis as Jules was great, but Jennifer Blanc as Melanie annoyed me. Even AJ Bowen, whose work I typically enjoy, seemed to be asleep at the wheel as Adam. For a movie that takes place primarily in one location, in this case a dinner table, the cast is what makes or breaks it for me. In Among Friends, for every good performance, there are two that simply aren't.

My main gripe, though, comes from the script itself. Yes, I know this is just a movie, and I normally don't nitpick things, but every now and then I will come across something that just irks me and I end up overanalyzing. Once things get rolling, and Bernadette starts showing the rest of the characters little film clips of their past transgressions against one another, I couldn't help but wonder where all these cameras came from, and why and how she was secretly filming every one of her friends no matter where they were all hanging out. The clips weren't even presented from angles that would indicate they were taken from static cameras, posted up in hidden corners of a room. There were different angles, zoom ins, etc. It's like Bernadette had a film crew following everyone around, and then she took all that footage and edited it into a movie called "Here's how you all fuck each other over, now come to my party so I can kill you". It would've been much more believable to me had it been that since Bernadette was a psychologist, if she were acting out against the group because of things they'd confided in her during sessions or something like that.

Still, despite all of that, I still ended up enjoying my time with Among Friends. It seems as if paying homage to the 80's is the "in" thing right now for indie horror, and I'm perfectly fine with that as those are the movies I grew up watching too. Among Friends is no exception, and even ups the level of tribute by making the party the friends are all attending an 80's themed party. It brings to mind movies like April Fools Day, and I'm ok with that. There were also a couple of great cameos, including Kane Hodder who was hilarious, and one that I really loved from Danielle Harris herself which I won't spoil, but I'm pretty sure if you're reading this particular blog, you will enjoy yourself.

While entertaining, Among Friends misses the mark a little bit due to up and down performances from the cast, and some questionable script choices. Danielle Harris shows that she's got some directorial chops though, and I'm definitely looking forward to future projects from one of my favorite scream queens. If you can look past it's flaws, there's a good time to be had with Among Friends, and I'm hoping that in future viewings it grows on me a little.

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