A group of friends get together for a murder mystery party, but things take a dark turn when one hijacks the evening and is out for blood.
It is clear to see that Danielle Harris has mined her experience as an actress in the horror genre to great effect while directing new feature Among Friends. With a genuine feel for the craft Harris has drawn performances from her cast that lifts what at times is a slightly awkward and forced narrative.
The film opens with several friends convening for a dinner and a fun evening spent playing a murder mystery game. Each of the guests is curious as to the nature of the night but their host Bernadette (Alyssa Lobit) is being especially coy. When they eventually sit down for the meal and for their roles to be revealed it becomes apparent they have been drugged and soon find themselves strapped to their chairs as Bernadette explains how their evening will be much more than they expected.
It would be fair to say that the characters are not likeable for the most part. The audience knows immediately that there are some unpleasant secrets to be revealed, some of which are dark and interesting, some of which are not, but the true motives of the host are less clear. Among the friends we have a mixed group, but there is emphasis on a genuine history and connection between them with the characters having some depth at least rather than the usual shallow victims we see in many horror films. This is where Harris really shows her strength. The script is weak and cliché ridden at times, the plot is pretty thin and the gore and effects are a little underwhelming but it is in the performances that Among Friends shines. With perhaps one or two exceptions in the ensemble each character comes across well rounded and believable. You probably won’t like some of them, in fairness you may dislike them all, but you will recognize the fear, disbelief and shear will to survive that they express. It would perhaps be wrong to single any one performance out as this is film that thrives on the group dynamic but Jennifer Blanc, AJ Bowen, Christopher Backus, Kamala Jones and Chris Meyer deliver convincing portrayals of people squirming through a combination of fear for their lives and fear of the truth.
There are issues though unfortunately. Despite the strength of the cast the script is somewhat awkward and forced at times with snippets of dialogue not really fitting the scene. I wondered while watching if some was ad-libbed at all as there was a sense of some lines not quite being thought through, almost as if time was against the production. The plot itself is a little predictable and loses it’s way somewhat in a strange dream sequence which I wasn’t sure worked in the film as a whole and I don’t think added to the story. The small size of the production is also notable in that several of the ensemble take roles behind the scenes, further emphasizing the collective.
Some of the truths that are revealed are a little weak also and this is even commented on by the characters. As some of the secrets are especially sinister it seems a shame that one or two character’s misdemeanors are more trivial but perhaps this emphasizes the darker deeds committed. The gore effects are slightly disappointing also and while exist to show the plight of the characters could perhaps have been a little more nuanced and left to the audience’s imagination.
In the end I quite enjoyed Among Friends but really only for the actors involved. As I said I think Harris has a real gift for drawing performances from her cast and with a stronger script and perhaps a little more time could have delivered a much more impressive film. As it is this is a fun attempt if watched as a character piece but unfortunately is no more than that. It is worth viewing though on this basis and I would be very interested to see what the director does next.
Among Friends (2012)