REVIEW: "AMONG FRIENDS"

It is no secret, that when I think of "Kickstarter" the first thing I think of is "Among Friends". This was the movie that started the obsession, and now it is finally in my grubby little hands. With this film, I have to use a different set of criteria than I would use for a big budget production.

First of all, this is Danielle Harris' first swing at directing. While she has had a lot of experience being directed, this is her first attempt to actually direct something. As such, I can not hold it to the same high standards of an experienced director. I look at it as a learning experience, and will attempt to indicate whether or not I foresee bigger and better things from Danielle.

Secondly, this film was made for a very low budget.  So again, it can not be held to the same standards of a big budget summer tent pole release. In all senses of the word, this is an indie film. Since I am not used to reviewing such films, this could be interesting.

"Among Friends", is presented as a movie about 7 friends getting together to do an 80's prom-themed murder mystery party. Things go a little sideways for the crew not too terribly long into the movie, and soon it becomes an airing of grievances, that gets a little messy.

In all honesty, I find it hard to classify what this movie is. It's not exactly horror, although it has elements of a horror film. It isn't quite a revenge film, although it does have elements of a revenge film. It's not a comedy, although there are some comedic elements. In the end, I have to look at it as a revenge flick, and considering the resident psychopath's apparent motives, I think that is the best descriptor. 

The movie is very obviously shot on a low budget. the majority of the film takes place in a single room, with some brief interludes into other rooms. The obvious upshot there, is that the majority of the film can be done in one session, with other parts being done at other times. Frankly, I find that to be a great way to manage a small budget. When you add in that the movie actually made it mostly logical for the bulk of the action to be taking place in that single room.

There are also some really nice pieces of gore. They are shot in such a way, that they look good, and do not feel too fake. Some of it is overdone, and unrealistic, but on the most part, the film manages to have a certain campy aspect that makes the unrealistic gore feel mostly acceptable. A bit of the gore relies on the macguffin that keeps this motley crew of characters in a single room, 

By the end of the movie, there is not a single likable character. Everyone who shows up on the screen, by the end of the film is revealed to be a horrible person, differing only in their degree of horribleness. The lot is so despicable, that by the end of the film, I was actually looking at the villain of the piece as if she were the hero. In that way, it kind of reminded me of the "Saw" movies.... A group of unsavory people being punished for their pasts. 

Far from being a perfect movie there were a few things that I would like to gripe about. The sound was a little uneven, I was constantly adjusting the volume throughout the entire movie, as characters went from a whisper, to a shrill obscenity-laden scream. This is one of those problems that could have been handled by subtitles, which were oddly lacking. Finally there is the drug use, and specifically the drug use by the character Jules. Her hallucinogenic mushrooms, while providing some interesting bits of comedic levity, were on the most part unnecessary. One of the final hallucinations does provide some moments of surreal humor. All in all, I just felt they were a little overdone.

At the end of it all however, this is a fun little indie flick. It is not a blockbuster, but it is better than some indie horror flicks I have seen. They make the most of their small budget, and make a story that is competent. For a first attempt at directing, I'm quite happy and look forward to follow up projects.

RECOMMENDATION: This is definitely an item for the horror movie-lover. It has a lot of faces that you will recognize from other horror films, as well as a couple nice call-backs to other horror films (especially notable when Danielle makes an appearance). This is a film made for fans, and for that, I would definitely recommend checking it out if you are a horror fan.

IS IT DISC-WORTHY: There are a few sad points here... One, it is not available in Blu-ray. This might be an offshoot of the low budget, but it is mildly disappointing. The DVD is a little low on the extra features, and I think would have benefited from an outtake reel or deleted scenes. All in all, it was worth the purchase. It will make a nice addition to any DVD collection.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This is a movie I can't help but enjoy. There are some places where it stumbles, sure, but all in all it is a nice easy watch. The gore and blood are well done considering the limited budget. I am mostly happy about the movie itself. 

FINAL SCORE: 8 out of 10 

(Click the image below to buy your own copy, or watch it on Amazon Instant Video)