Among Friends (Danielle Harris, 2012)

posted in: Jocelyn, Review | 0
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A group of friends get together for a 1980s prom-themed murder-mystery-whodunit dinner party that quickly reveals itself to be a bit more than they bargained for.
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Initially I was pretty excited by the concept of this movie. As a lover of all things 80s and all things horror how can combining them be anything but awesome? Eh. It can.
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The story of friends who get together for a party that goes awry isn’t exactly a fresh concept but it could still work provided it didn’t contain a laundry list of other issues. Alyssa Lobit wrote and stars as the mentally defunct host who claims to be doing all of this in the name of “integrity” as she is (at least in her own mind) the only one of the group who isn’t an asshole. It tries so hard to be so much more than it is but it relies on the old “it doesn’t have to make sense because she’s crazy” card which is inevitably viewed as rudimentary and lazy.
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The entire movie is built around the fact that she despises dishonesty and lack of character so much that she wants to show her “friends” how they all lie and cheat and are generally horrible to one another behind each other’s backs. (She discovered this by having her entire place fitted with hidden cameras and by everyone conveniently committing all wrong-doings at her house) Did I mention that she’s supposed to be a psychiatrist too?
When confronted with the question of why she’s been spying on everyone and how that can be seen as acceptable she (of course) has no real answer. It’s a “That doesn’t matter now” lack of accountability that makes for an unintriguing piece of writing and a sub-par lead character to build a movie around.
vlcsnap-2013-10-26-16h50m48s122Unfortunately some budget restraints were on display here as well. The entire film takes place in one location, the house, and they even go so far as to have the characters comment on how she goes all out for parties, never missing details but I’ve seen shitty bar bathrooms with more spirit.  (Pun intended? You decide!) There was minimal grue and the few effects that were on display were pretty unimpressive. I tend to think that they could’ve done better, done more, but they relied far too heavily on the script and actors being able to carry the implied “terror” which didn’t happen. You should never underestimate the power of well-placed gory bits. It can make an otherwise shitty film memorable.
vlcsnap-2013-10-26-16h49m44s247As far as Danielle Harris in the director’s chair, this wasn’t a terrible way to start a career. She’s capable enough and despite some moderately hokey/tired camera tricks I was actually more impressed than I expected. The highlight of the film is by far the “hallucination on set” sequence that stars a wonderfully tired and angry Michael Biehn lamenting the loss of his career and wondering how in the hell he ended up in his current situation. There’s also a cute cameo by Kane Hodder who for once I didn’t mind too much.
(Sidenote: I hate when movies show drug usage go infinitely beyond anything I’ve ever heard or experienced. I’ve done plenty of mushrooms and never once did I hallucinate the kinda shit that this girl went through and she eats only a small amount. But, whatever, maybe I’m just jealous.)
vlcsnap-2013-10-26-16h43m10s154I think I can speak for everyone when I say that audiences are pretty fucking tired of movies that are comprised solely of shit-heels. Every character being devoid of even a modicum of decency makes their comeuppance lackluster because you aren’t invested enough to care. It’s bad enough that the acting isn’t as good as it should be (AJ Bowen is by far the standout performance here) but you can overlook certain things when you have a solid story with well-written characters. When you give us no one to root for or care about you’re just doing yourself a disservice and once again coming off as lazy. If you don’t care enough to write from a place of substance, then why should we bother watching? There is one character in this that you’re supposed to feel bad for but you can’t because not only do you only spend 5 minutes with her but she can’t act. At all. Even a little. Every time she opened her mouth I wanted to punch her repeatedly for looking at me with that fucking face, assaulting my ears with that whiny, fake voice and for having the audacity to be in a god damn movie when I would be willing to stake my life that my 2 yr old niece has more talent in her shitty diaper. Growl!
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For the Danielle Harris nerds, she makes an appearance in a Halloween 4/5 clown costume as a welcome and playful nod to her horror-movie past. Truly, I think I get what she was going for here and while it didn’t really do a hell of a lot for me personally, I appreciate the effort. I’ve certainly sat through shittier movies with a much larger budget, so considering what she could pull off given a solid script and some cash, I’m in no way counting her out yet.
Official COSDS Nunspank Rating:
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Jocelyn lives on 35 acres of woodland in an undisclosed Appalachian location. When not boozing it up or fighting the power she's tending her organic garden or collecting punk/soundtrack albums. Her best friends walk on 4 legs. She does not own a cell phone.

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