Among Friends (2012/13)

Having friends can be a bitch. Especially when those friends are self centered, drug feuled assholes. What happens when you've finally had it with all the backstabbing, the sleeping around, the drunken bathroom rapes? Well, if you are the protagonist/antagonist in Danielle Harris' directorial debut, your plan involves a dinner party, some hidden cameras and a whole lot of psychological torture.

We meet out group of "friends" via late '80's stylized one by one limo pick up. Once the party is gathered and the absence of someone named Lily is given a cursory mention they are dropped of at the home of fellow friend/psychologist Bernadette (Alyssa Lobit) . Everything starts out hunky dory. Murder (mystery) is afoot and the group pairs off like movie etiquette dictates they should. Finding clues in various rooms of the house, everyone reconvenes for dinner in the dining room. Then shit gets fucked up.

Turns out Bernadette is all sorts of crazy - maybe. Having watched this group of people and the way their friendship operates both from afar and up close, she has decides that there needs to be some accountability. And she's the one that's going to give it to them. It's a hell of a set up, unfortunately it just doesn't come together the way it should.

The elephant in the room of course is Harris' directing debut, and I'm happy to say she acquits herself very well. The best thing you can say about a first time director is that you don't really notice the direction. That's certainly the case for most of the film. However, there's one scene involving a character tripping on 'shrooms about 55 minutes in the film that is just tremendous. It's such a fucking head fuck that it's almost disappointing to come back to the main narrative.

Harris is lucky to be working with some great genre actors. Her BFF Jennifer Blanc(-Beihn), A.J. Bowen and in particular Brianne Davis as Jules, are all very good. Even Kane Hodder shows up as the groups unlucky limo driver. it's just a shame that they aren't given a lot to do. Blanc(-Beihn) in particular seems like just window dressing at points.

Ultimately though, it's the script (written by star Lobit) that leaves the rest of the film short. None of the "friends" are developed in any way other than showing they are mostly lying scumbags. Bernadettes motivations are thin at best. There is an attempt at a twist, but there is really no payoff. Was Lily in on the whole thing? Was her appearance just happenstance? It's left very ambiguous. Ambiguity can work, but there still needs to be some sort of cohesion for the rest of the narrative. Payback for people acting like drunken assholes doesn't really elicit a lot of sympathy. Now had these people done these awful things had they been sober...there's something to think about.

'Among Friends' is another case that proves no matter how talented the people working on the other aspects of the film are, without a strong script, the film is doomed. It's not a bad film. It's just and unsatisfying one. Harris does very well for a first time director, it's just a shame she didn't have better material to work with.

'Among Friends' is available on various VOD platforms and on DVD.

**1/2 stars out of *****

As always thanks for reading and "Enjoy Every Sandwich"

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