Review: 'Among Friends'

By: Heather Seebach

Horror darling Danielle Harris makes her directorial debut with this flawed-but-darkly-funny movie about friendship, betrayal, and lies. In Among Friends, seven friends gather at an 80s-themed murder mystery party. Things go to hell when one of the attendees hijacks the dinner and puts the others through a twisted game of show-and-tell. The film recalls 80s slashers like April Fool's Day and offers up a few surprises for modern horror fans, too.

Ever since Saw arrived on the scene, the "let's play a game" thing has gotten pretty tired in horror. So with a group of young hotties duct taped around a table and being sliced up, Among Friends is uncomfortably close to being torture porn. Fortunately, this one offers an addendum to that premise to which we can all relate - shitty friends. Whether you're aware of it or not, each of us has at least one two-faced friend who talks dirt behind our back, or who'd sell us down the river if given a reason. In this movie, the "victims" are forced to face their own selfishness in the company of the very people they have wronged. It takes place mostly in one room, and I dig that stage play-like quality.

The film's strongest attribute is its likeable cast, which is composed of both cult icons and lesser-known faces. AJ Bowen (You're Next), Jennifer Blanc-Biehn (The Victim), and Kane Hodder (Hatchet) are among the people you probably already know and love. The director herself makes a quick but hilarious cameo horror fans will dig. And keep your eyes peeled for two more genre icons making random appearances - I won't spoil who they are, but hardcore fans will know them when they see them! They pop up in a very strange place!

The rest of the cast does a good job bringing the kitschy humor, especially the perpetually coked-up Brianne Davis and uber-hammy writer/star Alyssa Lobit. Despite being famous as a screen queen, director Danielle Harris shows welcomed restraint. She subscribes to the adage "less is more" and the psychological damage is more disturbing than the gore here. The filmmakers made the best of their small budget, though the final product is still marred by a few issues. Particularly toward the beginning, expect some bad dubbing and editing issues.

Among Friends is a quirky new take on a familiar sub-genre. It's an especially fun little treat for horror fans who can expect cameos, name-dropping, and movie references. The feature is not without its hiccups but it is still a funny and occasionally disturbing look at revenge, voyeurism, and murder - you know, all the things that make a long-lasting friendship!

The DVD, now available from Lionsgate, includes audio commentary with Danielle Harris, AJ Bowen, and Jennifer Blanc-Biehn. It's definitely worth a listen, especially if you are a fan of any of those people. There are hilarious behind-the-scenes stories and even some drinking game suggestions!

You can pick up the DVD here from Amazon:

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