Danielle Harris steps behind the camera this time around for what is being touted
as her feature film directorial debut. AMONG
FRIENDS (2012) is a thriller for genre fans that goes by the clever tagline "This dinner party's gonna to be killer".
The Internet Movie Database lists MADISON, a vignette that appears in a 2008
feature called PRANKS which includes two other short films each directed by actresses
Ellie Cornell (HALLOWEEN 4: THE RETURN OF MICHAEL MYERS & HALLOWEEN 5: THE
REVENGE OF MICHAEL MYERS) and Heather Langenkamp (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
& A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET PART III: THE DREAM WARRIORS), as Ms. Harris's
first professional directing job. To
date, PRANKS has not seen the light of day as a DVD release, which is curious
given the talent involved in its creation.
Hopefully a DVD release is somewhere on the horizon. NOTE: PRANKS is not to be confused with the
alternate title of 1982's THE
DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD.
FRIENDS tells the story of Bernadette (Alyssa Lobit) who is hosting a murder
mystery party. She has invited Marcus (Christopher Backus), Melanie (Jennifer
Blanc), Adam (AJ Bowen), Jules (Brianna Davis), Sara (Kamala Jones), and Blane
(Chris Meyer) to her house for what promises to be a fun night playing out a game
and trying to guess who the killer is.
of the participants are done up in 80s retro hairstyles: Melanie sports big
hair, Adam dons a mullet, and Jules looks like she fell out of a video by A Flock
of Seagulls. A limo driver (Kane Hodder)
escorts the gang to Bernadette's house. As each one of them exits the limo, he
comments on them individually with an improvised litany of comical insults that
elicit both smirks and laughs.
inside, the group gathers in Bernadette's kitchen for some friendly small talk. They are instructed to look for clues
throughout the house and as they do we become aware of some less-than-stellar personality
traits, such as Adam's grapple with cocaine despite trying to be sober for two
is instructed to sit at the table and dine prior to the game, however almost
simultaneously they all become numb below the waist and unable to walk. Terrified, they all demand an
explanation. Bernadette, the sole person
unaffected, has spiked their drinks and has something macabre in store for them. Tying everybody up to their chairs with duct
tape, Bernadette turns on everybody and accuses all of them of egregious
behavior. To prove it, she directs their
attention to a large-screen television with footage of most of them that was
surreptitiously recorded months earlier. Adams's out-and-out rape of their
friend Lily, and Sarah and Jules getting it on while Marcus pleasures himself
from afar are just a few of the things that turn Bernadette's stomach to the
point that she administers punishment by cutting off one of the women's hair -
along with her scalp. Given that Adam
committed rape, you can only imagine what his punishment entails.
introduces ground rules which inevitably lead to a subsequent humiliation and
torture of all held hostage at the dinner table. There is a twist at the end of
all this, and seasoned genre fans will see it coming from a mile away, however this
should not dissuade fans as Ms. Harris proves herself a capable director.
basic plot of AMONG FRIENDS calls to mind David Slade's HARD CANDY (2005) in
which a man is lured by a young woman under the pretense of sex, only to be put
through the ringer when she spikes his drink and calls him out for preying on
underage girls and proceeds to make his life a living hell. In Ms. Harris's film, a lone woman (a doctor
with access to medication, no less) turns the table (in this case, the dinner
table) against her friends who disgust her.
Alyssa Lobit is a striking actress and she imbues Bernadette with a
sinister slant that would make John Doe of David Fincher's SE7EN (1995)
smile. The rest of the cast is also very
good, and you have to be in you're going to spend ten shooting days strapped to
a chair for hours upon hours.
Harris makes a cameo appearance in her trademark clown outfit from HALLOWEEN 4
in a sequence when the drugged out Jules is hallucinating that she's in a
movie. Michael Biehn also adds to the
madness in this sequence.
film also offers visual references to Stanley Kubrick's THE SHINING (1980) and Adrian
Lyne's FATAL ATTRACTION (1987).
DVD comes with a commentary that consists of director Harris and actor Bowden
and actress Blanc. Their disposition is cheerful
and fun to listen to. Ms. Harris is
always gracious at her convention appearances and her personality is likewise
as she discusses the rigor (mortis?) of making a film in a confined space. That being said, I do wish that her comments
discussed more of the challenges of directing under these circumstances.
word of warning: if you hate seeing people vomit and drool (as I do), close
your eyes at the 33:30 mark and the 38:20 mark respectively and count to ten
before opening them again!
DVD contains trailers for VAMPIRE, LORD OF DARKNESS, NIGHT OF THE LIVING
DEAD: RESURRECTION, and NAILBITER.
FRIENDS can be ordered here
and the official site is here.