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“PLUS ONE” (SXSW Movie Review)

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Were you a different person 45 minutes ago?  Is it wild to suggest you may have been? At an age like 18, 19 or 20, a significant time of development and personal understanding, it might not be. Kids are ever changing, ever evolving and often, not so organically. They revolve interests, style and friends in an effort to grasp themselves and impress others. All the while, they hemorrhage mistakes and spew nervous energy with little time to understand what’s working and what isn’t. PLUS ONE, the latest from Greek filmmaker Dennis Iliadis (THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT), forces surreal reflection on the youth at a lavish house party, in a pop art-horror spin on one-night-can-change-everything teen movies.

Clearly inspired by, and critical of, the insane heights of house parties in the likes of PROJECT X and 21 & OVER, the meat of PLUS ONE exists at such an all out bash. It’s an already unrealistic vision (have you ever been to one with light shows? Go-go dancers?), so that when a simple, cosmic event sets forward the film’s conceit, there’s little fighting the stranger places it’s willing to go. David (Rhys Wakefield) and Teddy (Logan Miller) are the central players and ones who quickly catch on that all isn’t right, as doubles of themselves and everyone else attending are popping up and reliving the evening, just about 45 minutes prior. With each blackout of lights, the doubles catch up in time, forcing more to understand the situation.

Iliadis really flexes his stylistic tendencies through slick party photography that’s turned just a bit uncomfortable and confrontational, and uses such to examine characters’ understanding of themselves and their actions. David, having just lost girlfriend Jill (Ashley Hinshaw) in a case of mistaken identity idiocy (and foreshadowing) realizes he can give his unaccepted apology another shot and attempts to manipulate at least one version of her into taking him back. His rough handling of rejection and the changing of lives he rallies so hard against reveals someone in love with a vision he holds of Jill, not the sure, inquisitive woman she’s growing into.

Teddy, meanwhile, lucks into an evening with the ultimate crush and while able to reflect on what he quickly refers to as the best night of his life, is also horrified by the discovery. His focus is less self-serving, vying for the attention of his peers in an effort to understand and solve the night’s threats.

But our two protagonists are perhaps nowhere near as interesting as the later developments. The socially shy Allison (played by twins Colleen and Suzanne Dengel), in the film’s more psychedelic of subplots, finds her doppelganger and they proceed to connect and find a certain harmony. Each interaction is indicative of these developing young adults’ and how they fit, or don’t, into their own skin. Allison, having accepted a solitary place in the world and made peace with such is able to peaceably interact and find comfort in “herself.” The rest of the party is not so lucky as they’re eventually forced to witness their trashy revelry all over again, with the power surges embodying the harsh light that makes ugly all your fun in the dark.

Getting to these far out, admirably odd beats requires some accepting that Teddy and the ensemble will arrive at certain pieces of knowledge in a perhaps far-too-quick manner, but the delirious, bloody climax and PLUS ONE’s headier interests are worth the smaller, rough bits. It’s an unsettling, often funny and strange peek into growing up and accepting who you are.

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About the author
Samuel Zimmerman
Fangoria.com Managing Editor Samuel Zimmerman has been at FANGORIA since 2009, where fresh out of the Purchase College Cinema Studies program, he began as an editorial assistant. Since, he’s honed both his writing and karaoke skills and been trusted with the responsibility of jury duty at Austin’s incredible Fantastic Fest. Zimmerman lives in and hails from The Bronx, New York where his pants are too tight and he’ll watch anything with witches.
  • James

    Not to rain on your parade, but you’ve incorrectly described the “socially shy” character as Brenda, played by April Billingsley. That character is actually Allison, played by twin sisters Colleen and Suzanne Dengel. If it’s going to be up on your website for your readers to see, might as well give proper credit where credit is due.

    • http://twitter.com/samdzimmerman Sam Zimmerman

      Unsure how you’re raining on my parade by providing completely helpful information, but thanks

      • James

        You’re right, not sure why I phrased it that way. Anywhos, thanks for making the change.

  • John I

    I was directed to your review via another website that announced the second wave of films for Montreal’s Fantasia Fest. Although your review is, for the most, part good, there are some serious issues with your grammar and sentence structure. So much so, that it makes it hard to sometimes understand what you are trying to say, which is frustrating to say the least. I really don’t mean to be an A** about it but I just had to point it out in the hopes that you can use this constructive criticism in your future reviews. I also am not pretending to be an expert in grammar for my part so feel free to spot some of my mistakes in my comments as well ;-)

    • Nick S.

      John, frankly I don’t know what you are talking about. I just read Zimmerman’s review and I can’t find any bad grammer or awkward sentence structure in the review. As, always it is very informative, constructive and well written. Best, Nick S.

      • 2Cool4School81

        There might be a few errors, but they’re not flagrant. This is anything but an unreadable review, it’s actually well-written. This film was pretty awesome considering I thought it was going to be a mean girls meets twilight zone with a lil horror. Loved the bleak ending.

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