The Movie Waffler New Release Review (DVD/VOD) - FRIENDS DON'T LET FRIENDS | The Movie Waffler

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New Release Review (DVD/VOD) - FRIENDS DON'T LET FRIENDS

FRIENDS DON'T LET FRIENDS review
A group of young people agree to help their friend dispose of the corpse of the boyfriend she killed.







Review by Sue Finn

Directed by: James S Brown

Starring: Brittany Anne Woodford, Jenny Curtis, Kanin Guntzelman, Mark Hatfield

FRIENDS DON'T LET FRIENDS poster

Friends Don’t Let Friends is essentially set over the course of one night where things escalate from bad to worse for a group of friends just having some fun - kicking back, chatting, catching up, oh, and burying a body.

Opening with a harsh break up where the guy basically blames his girlfriend for ruining his life, it doesn’t mess about before plunging us straight into the action, as not long after he gives her the “it's not me it’s totally you” routine, she overhears a phone call where he calls her a “crazy bitch,” and she is aiming a crossbow at his head.

After contemplating the logistics of killing him with a bow and arrow, she opts for a good old-fashioned garrotting instead.

Whispering sweet nothings to dying neckbeard Chad (Kanin Guntzelman), it’s clear that maybe he was right; she actually is, a crazy bitch.

FRIENDS DON'T LET FRIENDS

She calls several friends for mysterious help and they drop everything to rush to her side, as it seems she is the ‘mean girl’ of the group and well, you just don’t say no to Stephanie (Brittany Anne Woodford).

At the apartment they are confronted with the body and the growing realisation that its disposal is what she requires assistance with.

We skip the conversation where she somehow convinces them to aide and abet in a murder, and the next thing we know they’re loading the body into a car and going for a road trip.

Of course the car breaks down and they’re in more of a pickle than ever.

The three friends are as follows - Dave (Jake White), who has a major crush on Stephanie and is happy to be her worshipping lapdog; Carrie (Jenny Curtis), who has been friends with Steph for years; and Carrie’s boyfriend Jeb (Brendan McGowan - very good), who is the voice of reason and has the smartest things to say in this film. His outrage at the situation rings true, his confusion over their acceptance of the murder and his dislike of bad seed Stephanie making him the best and most likeable audience substitute.

When Jeb confronts her over her easy compliance, Carrie justifies the murder with “we all have bad days” - oh that’s alright then.

It turns out that Chad was quite the abusive boyfriend who beat and isolated Stephanie, so I sympathise.

Then Stephanie tells Carrie she wished Carrie could feel the power she felt when she killed Chad.. Hmm.. Sympathy waning again.

But there is a twist here - all is not as it seems with Chad; perhaps he’s not quite as dead or as human as they thought.

FRIENDS DON'T LET FRIENDS

And (in a Blair Witch style frustration) after walking for hours to get help with their car trouble, they’re back at the car again.

It seems there’s something about the Joshua tree in these Badlands that indicates they’re in Hell - “We deserve it!” wails Carrie.

Dave, who says he loves self absorbed Stephanie, forces himself on her and calls her a bitch when she bites him - he’s then carried away by Chad monster and forced to self mutilate in one of the most graphic and creepier scenes (inane but effective) and it seems we’re getting to the meat of the horror at this point, but unfortunately things after this just get very silly very fast; people act against character, the plot goes off the rails and the whole thing loses purpose.

On the positive side, until the derailment this is a clever indie film that makes use of its strengths - good and believable actors, minimal lighting, creepy effects, beautiful scenery and a smart reliance on atmosphere. Some great decisions by writer/director James S ‘Jamie’ Brown work in this film's favour to give at least the first half of the movie a compelling watchability.

The characters are a collection of stereotypes (at least on the surface) but this is explained with the final denouement and it makes sense that they really had to be almost representative of certain personality types or traits, if you will. The ‘bitch’ character of Stephanie however is quite complex if you are willing to watch her without any preconceived notions; her actions, responses and ideas are multifaceted, at least until near the end when she acts completely outrageously in an obvious attempt to wrap things up neatly.

FRIENDS DON'T LET FRIENDS

It’s a pity, as she was quite the fascinating persona before Brown chose to just boil her down to one defining action that he then decided to have her repeat a number of times, but this time with no reason; a wasted opportunity to really embrace such a nuanced character.

At the end of the movie, the threads pull together to make sense but it’s a borrowed plot device executed more effectively in other movies; Identity being the most obvious.

Some nice jump scares, very good acting and a taut atmosphere don’t excuse re-treading ground that has already been covered quite satisfactorily before.

Until the finale I was on-board and enjoying the grey area the filmmaker allowed these characters to inhabit; but the copycat ending left me cold.

Friends Don't Let Friends is on DVD/VOD now.





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