After a much anticipated wait, we finally watched Among Friends, the directorial debut of modern-day scream queen Danielle Harris. It’s without a doubt a near perfect definition of an indie horror film: entertaining and flawed.
The story is actually quite fresh and tight-knit. Bernadette (Alyssa Lobit, who also wrote the screenplay) is throwing an 80s-themed murder mystery dinner party — and all of her friends are invited! But just as the party gets going, the real meat of the evening is exposed and rest assured, these ‘friends’ aren’t exactly what they seem. See, Bernadette (don’t call her Bernie) has been planning this for a long time and she’s going to make sure everything is laid out on the table — secrets, lies, betrayal, fingers, what have you. And it’s not just about the reveal. It’s about the bloody revenge and retribution. And we are right there along for the ride.
With one or two exceptions, this cast of characters is extremely unlikable, as they probably should be. It’s a group of L.A. beautiful people, from the party-hard lesbian actress, Jules (Brianne Davis), and her ‘recovering’ drug addict brother, Adam (AJ Bowen), to the seemingly sweet Sara (Kamala Jones — who looked a hell of a lot like Suzanne Snyder in her 80s get-up) and the bitchy-ish Melanie (Jennifer Blanc). Throw in a couple douchey guys and a missing friend, Lily (Dana Daurey), and that about rounds out this circle of so-called friends.
As with any indie flick, the acting can be trying. Honestly, I went the entire movie hemming and hawing over whether I thought Alyssa Lobit was a good or bad actress. The same can be said for Jennifer Blanc. My conclusion? I think both are decent actresses; however, the editing of this flick was a bit rough, which ultimately made much of the dialogue delivery quite stilted and/or unintentionally cheesy at times. Brianne Davis at the start of the film was an extreme over-actor with horrible lines, but as the movie progressed, so did her acting ability.
And like any good horror movie, Among Friends has its fair share of cameos — and clever ones at that — including: Kane Hodder, Michael Biehn (Jennifer Blanc’s real life beau) and the director herself in one especially cheeky appearance.
I do have one gripe about the story: Bernadette’s true motive. She’s exposing these friends for what they are and what they have done to each other and that’s well-deserved; but, what brought her to this plan? In the end, we know very little about her character, in contrast to the TMI that’s uncovered for the rest of the group. SPOILERish — With that said, a brief scene during the credits suggests there could be more to Bernadette’s story. Perhaps we’ll see her again. Or, perhaps we’re just meant to believe this IS Bernadette, the social vigilante who goes from clique to clique, exposing truths, destroying lives.
While Among Friends is by no means perfect, Danielle Harris should be pleased with her first stab at directing — and Alyssa Lobit should be proud of her razor-sharp story. Sure, the editing wasn’t great and for an 86 min movie, it felt longer. But you know what this flick was? Fun to watch. It was goofy and gory and kept me curious throughout. It was fun. And isn’t that the point?