With friends like these…
Fans of scream queen Danielle Harris may be looking forward to her directorial debut, the comedy/thriller Among Friends, which recently had its first public screening at Panic Fest in Kansas City. But the title is telling. Not only does it describe the plot of the movie; it also seems to describe the making of the movie. It’s as if the actress got together with some friends one weekend and made a film for fun.
I can’t say I was expecting much; however, I might have hoped that Harris learned a thing or two about manipulating an audience in all the horror movies in which she’s been acting over the years. To be fair, Among Friends is not strictly a horror movie, although it has some gruesome moments. But whatever its genre, there’s not a distinctive style of any kind. That would be all right (not everyone is Hitchcock), except the filmmaking tone is also inconsistent.
The film starts on a light note. As a limousine collects a group of young adults one-by-one, their images freeze and turn into a photograph as they are introduced. It feels like a low-budget college comedy. But once they arrive at the house where they intend to play a murder mystery game, there’s nothing special about the style. Until a wacky dream sequence late in the movie, the direction is merely competent.
But, hey, at least it’s competent. There are probably other actors who have done worse behind the camera. And I don’t mean to harp on Harris as actress-turned-director; it’s just that, frankly, she’s going to be what draws people to Among Friends, if there’s anything that will.
While their plots are not exactly the same, Among Friends reminds me a lot of Would You Rather, a more serious take on friends held captive while horrible secrets about them are revealed. This one’s “soapier”, though, focusing on the participants’ sexual infidelities rather than their character flaws. (And neither one comes close to the genius of 1995’s superior The Last Supper.)
I had read that Among Friends took place in the 80’s; however, since it contains cars 30 years ahead of the time (as well as cell phones), I’m now guessing that it’s instead an 80’s-themed party. The era is not a plot point, anyway, so maybe it’s merely an attempt to give the movie a distinctive feel. I’d prefer to have that come from the script, acting or direction.
It’s been a couple weeks since I saw Among Friends. To be completely honest, I’ve waited too long to write about it; I can’t think of anything else to say. That may reflect my failing memory or, more likely, the fact that there’s just not much memorable about the movie. It’s harmless, I suppose, but I can recommend no reason to see it ahead of any number of other movies that are available right now.