Ever have a secret that you hoped and prayed your friends would never find out? Like you wanted to keep it from them because you’re sure they would never look at you the same way again? Everybody’s had the feeling from one time or another. It’s natural. What’s amazing is how much power we give those secrets. They haunt us sometimes and become bigger than they actually are. It’s a feeling that ranges in various degrees from person to person. Now what if those secrets were dragged out into the daylight and revealed to your friends? Worse, what if your dirty laundry was unearthed against your will? Does being forced to fess up make it easier? What if you’re being tortured? These are the circumstances that plague our “heroes” in Among Friends, the directorial debut of of scream queen Danielle Harris and starring (and written by) Alyssa Lobit. It’s a film that explores the darker side of human behavior and is also devilishly fun.
A close-knit group of friends meet at their mutual friend, Bernadette’s house for an 80s themed Murder Mystery Party. It’s all fun and games when the night takes a turn for the worst as each of the guests (minus Bernadette) become paralyzed from the waist down. It’s all part of the plan for their hostess who’s decided that each of them have been keeping too many secrets from one another and has taken it upon herself to make sure they all come clean. To do ensure this, she’s devised a little game for them to play. What follows is a torturous tale of betrayal and distrust and tons and tons of torture. What are you afraid to reveal about yourself when you’re Among Friends? After watching this film, I’m not sure how I would answer that question.
I have always said that when it comes to horror movies, the scariest ones are the ones that could actually happen. A film about a werewolf or a ghost or a vampire might be scary, but they don’t really get too much of a rise out of me. The same goes for films where there’s an unstoppable killer, ala Jason or Michael Myers. The suspense and tension may be heightened and these films might get a jump out of me but my suspension of disbelief is always fighting with my common sense. What really scares me is human nature. When people go bad and give into their more sadistic side. The sadistic side is where this movie lives. Danielle Harris does a great job of displaying just how scary a person can be when they’ve gone off the deep end and you’re helpless to stop them. She puts her characters through the ringer as their captor works them over with equal parts physical and psychological torture. “Anyone who says ‘Stop’ loses a finger,” is just one of the rules in Bernadette’s game and the rule is followed to the letter. There’s a number of times when folks part with their skin, hair and body parts without warning. The tension is ramped up with each secret that is reveal and the fear is increased with each cut, chop and slice. And thanks to some solid performances from the ensemble cast (who happen to all be friends in real life), that tension and fear feel 100% real. There isn’t a weak showing from any of the main characters and that’s what keeps you with them right to the end. As an added bonus, there’s also a hilarious cameo from Kane Hodder as a sleazy limo driver who’s got some of the best lines in the film.
The only real problems that this film suffers come in the final act. One of the characters, Jules, is going through a much more “psychedelic” version of the evening as she’s imbibed a number of hallucinogenic drugs before coming to the party. The drugs’ effects work to move the story along for the most part until we enter Jule’s “trip”. She’s an aspiring actor and her hallucinations tie into this as she begins to see the “reality” that the film is just that – a film. While an interesting detour in the story (and an effective way to get around showing one of the more graphic and painful torture scenes) it goes on way too long. It’s after this distraction that we’re dropped into a quick rush to the end of the film. The final moments, while having the right conclusion, are executed a bit sloppy. The movie was shot in sequence so there is a good chance that the lackluster ending was due to money and time becoming dwindling commodities. However, even with this hiccup near the end, the film still has a great amount of entertainment value.
If you’re a fan of horror films and you’re looking for something fun, be sure to check out Among Friends. The funny parts are funny and the scary parts are scary. That’s what you want in a little horror film like this one. The film comes to DVD this Tuesday (August 27th).
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!