25 Apr 2022
Zachary Byrd, Phillip Andre Botello, Zach Weiner, Aaron Dalla Villa, Cameron Cowperthwaite, Erica Boozer, Joe Gallagher, Jean-Louis Droulers, Jesse Pimentel
Animal House gets sadistic in this 2018 horror Pledge, written by and starring Zach Weiner and directed by Daniel Robbins. Featuring at this year's Grimmfest Film Festival, this is arguably the best indie horror of the year.
Weiner stars alongside Zachary Byrd and Phillip Andre Botello as three freshman buddies looking to join any frat house that will take them. Having received the brush off from most of the traditional houses on campus, a seductive invite comes in the form of Rachel (Erica Boozer) who invites our heroes to a remote mansion where the good times flow. Coming back the next day to pledge, the group are perturbed to discover the cruel initiation which awaits them.
Phenomenally well-balanced and containing outstanding performances across the board, this is incredible horror/thriller filmmaking. The narrative is tightly constructed with compelling themes of identity and loyalty, the movie is well paced and gripping throughout, and the chemistry between the three central characters is engaging and vital to the success of the story. The trio reminded me of the Superbad kids, if they had been dropped on to the set of Saw! Weiner’s nerdy but eager David works well with the more cynical Ethan (Botello) and Justin (Byrd).
The villainy comes in the form of three preppy seniors with a penchant for violence. Whilst their clothes and demeanor scream white privilege, their brutality is terrifying. Cameron Cowperthwaite is particularly engaging as the frat's envoy, straddling the friend/foe fence brilliantly out of focus. As the plot deepens and the scary reality of this fraternity's mission statement is revealed, audiences will relish the intelligent storytelling alongside the compelling horror cinema.
University movies typically strike a chord with viewers as they are perfect settings for coming-of-age stories, as are horror films, where the fears of our youth and/or future can often be our monster. By combining these two genres, Weiner has created a fascinating study of the vulnerability of those on the cusp of manhood. Assimilation (in cinema land) can often lead to a bad place and in Pledge it most certainly does. So many of the characters become victims of their own need to fit in, or belong to a society that they understand so little of. A cautionary tale that has so many relevant topics of discussion for a 2018 audience.