+1 (Dennis Iliadis, 2013)
Okay, we’ll get the usual criticism of the movie out of the way: if you’ve seen Repeaters, you’ve basically seen a small-scale version of +1. No denying this, no way. That said, Bill Gullo (turning in his first feature, based on a story by director Iliadis) asks all the right “what if?” questions to turn this into a very interesting movie, and sets things up so you think you know some stuff about the characters but… in any case, while the movie does have a few flaws here and there that keep it from becoming the classic it could have been, Iliadis (previously responsible for the Last House on the Left remake) turns in a surprisingly serviceable paranormal thriller that’s a great deal of fun to boot.
Plot: Angad (Newlyweeds‘ Rohan Kymal) is throwing the party of the year, and almost everyone’s invited. (His drug dealer, Kyle [Martha Marcy May Marlene‘s Adam David Thompson], is not, and the two have a very public argument outside the house about it. This becomes important.) A few days previous, David (The Purge‘s Rhys Wakefield) fell victim to a misunderstanding and got dumped by longtime girlfriend Jill (About Cherry‘s Ashley Hinshaw). David’s friend Teddy (The Bling Ring‘s Logan Miller) thinks going to the party and getting boozed up, maybe even finding himself a new squeeze, would be just the thing. As they get there, they’re ambushed by childhood friend Allison (played at various times by twin sisters Suzanne and Colleen Dengel, best known for The Devil Wears Prada), an emo-style introvert who ends up tagging along with them. All well and good, save the conjunction of a meteorite crash and some electrical anomalies that have… odd… effects on the partygoers. Soon enough, David, Teddy, and Allison are trying to figure out how to survive the night, but there’s a catch—Jill is also at the party, and David refuses to leave without saving her as well.
While things generally play out just about as you expect them to once you cop to what Iliadis and scriptwriter Bill Gullo, turning in his first feature, are up to, that doesn’t mean they don’t have another trick up their sleeves every once in a while. All three characters react to the anomaly in different ways—one of them reacts “normally” (i.e., how you most likely believe you would react in the same situations), while his two otherwise-obsessed friends react in totally different, but still believable, ways. (This is not a spoiler—all three of them are in some way neurotic.) The rest of the film is enjoyable enough for its basic premise and huge amounts of eye candy (not just the gratuitous nudity, of which there is a great deal, but the sumptuous camerawork and set design—aside from acres of bare breasts, there is a great deal of high school fantasy fulfillment in the party itself, not to mention Angad’s ability to pay for it all), but it’s in their three main characters where Iliadis and Gullo really shine here. The downside of that is that some of the other aspects of the film feel rushed; some minor characters could have been better-developed, the resolution is a little too neat for Iliadis’ subtext about disposability, at least if he’s against it (as he seems to be)—but were I you, I would not let those things put me off watching this movie. Aspiring thriller and horror directors will especially want to take note as Gullo hands you a textbook on how to develop characters who are both well-drawn and unpredictable enough to make a movie pop. *** ½