BEST HORROR MOVIES
Whenever there is a group of long-term friends together in a movie, there are bound to be revelations of secret betrayals and hidden agendas… Big Chill anyone? When those friends are drugged so that they cannot move their legs, and duct taped to chairs around a big dining table, there’s no escaping a revelation here and there. Especially if a whack-o friend of theirs helps things along with videos she’s secretly been taking of all of them for years.
Among Friends takes the concept of secrets between friends to the extreme of torture, mutilation and murder. Bernadette (Among Friends writer Alyssa Lobit) lives in a nice house in the country, and often has her friends over for theme parties, including murder mysteries. Bernadette also has cameras hidden in every room of the house, and records the antics of her friends so she can driver herself crazy with rage at their indiscretions. The last and final party before Bernadette moves off somewhere to pursue her career as a Psychiatrist is the mystery of the missing friend Lily (Dana Daurey) dinner party, and the entire group is picked up by a limousine and brought to the house for one last big party. Bernadette has plans to reveal everyone’s secrets, and exact her own brand of psychotic punishment.
Among Friends has some very definite high points. As the directorial debut of Danielle Harris (Halloween 4 and 5, Rob Zombie’s Halloween and Halloween 2, Hatchet 2), this film is awesome. Harris has an eye for storytelling, and leads her cast into some excellent performances. There are some troubles with script and story consistency, but Harris presses on to unfold the story with a skill that is frankly lacking in many other low budget horror offerings.
Regarding performances, Brianne Davis as Jules is a particular stand out among a truly talented cast. Her portrayal of a young and relatively carefree girl on enough random drugs to have insane flashbacks and delusions is really stellar, and she certainly breaks some records regarding multitudes of delirious facial expressions. In spite of the type of character she’s playing and the drug-induced stupor she drifts in and out of, there is never a moment when she appears inappropriate for her station, or either under- or over-done. Performance-wise there is only one real complaint, and that may be a matter of style; Indie horror regular AJ Bowen (Rites of Spring, You’re Next, Chillerama, The House of the Devil) has a certain body part removed at one point, and the way he continues to sit at the table completely conscious seems a bit unrealistic… granted, it’s hard to know how someone may be affected by such a surgical procedure completed with pinking shears, but the very fact that he is conscious may leave the audience suspect. The cameo by Kane Hodder ends up being a bit of a distraction as well, not because of his general performance but rather because of one particular scene where he dances like a fool in Bernadette’s driveway. Someone should have told him that, no matter how he claims to dance in real life, that he cannot do his goofy crap in a movie that is meant to be taken somewhat seriously.
The one thing that prevents Among Friends from truly being above reproach has to do with some plot inconsistencies in the story. Bernadette exacts intense revenge for the transgressions of her supposed friends, yet none of the punishments seem appropriate for the sins committed. There is one among this group of friends who is indeed guilty of an egregious act, and HIS punishment is perfectly appropriate, but the rest of them… this is just too much over-kill. If the reason that the punishments do not fit the crime lies in the psychosis of Bernadette herself, then a bit of background as to why she’s such a loon would have helped make the whole thing make sense. Unfortunately, the audience doesn’t get that bit of context, and without it the violence seems just too damn random.
As a directorial debut for Danielle Harris, Among Friends is a triumph that has not been accomplished by many more seasoned micro-horror indie directors. Whether it is her connections from having been “in the business” for so long, or simply a brilliant artistic eye, Harris surrounded herself with some amazing talent in the telling of this story on film, and guided that talent well. Harris is very active in front of the camera (upcoming films include Night of the Living Dead: Origins 3D, Hallows’ Eve and Dead.tv), but behind the camera might very well be where her most successful creations lie.