Saturday, September 30, 2017

Friends Don't Let Friends (2017)

DIRECTOR: James S. Brown

WRITER: James S. Brown


Brittany Anne Woodford
Jenny Curtis
Mark Hatfield
Kanin Guntzelman
Braden Joyce
Brendan McGowan
Jake White


When Stephanie and boyfriend break up after he insults her, things turn violent. She ends up strangling him to death. The first thing that she does is call up her friends in hopes that they will help her dispose of his body. When the group of friends drive out into the desert during the night to hide the evidence, his corpse soon reanimates and comes back from the dead to seek revenge on Stephanie and her friends.

What struck my initial interest in watching Friends Don't Let Friends, is the poster. It looked like a quick photoshop job, but there was still something memorable and eye-catching about it. I liked the look of the creepy caverns representing what appears to be a claw. While I saw the poster art for the movie, I never watched the trailer for it. I went into this story completely blind. I was ready to be shocked or surprised.

Reading the tagline for the film: Friends help you move... Real friends help you move bodies. I expected a story about a group of friends who murder one of their own and have to try and hide the evidence. That age-old tale about trust and paranoia setting in after the events of the murder. I didn't expect much else from this movie. Looking at the poster, I had expected something quirky. The poster for the film didn't scream serious horror for me.

The film starts somewhat grounded in reality. A horrible boyfriend ends up insulting his girlfriend. He then breaks up with her, and she's had enough. Stephanie ends up murdering him. Once she calls up her friends to come and help get rid of the body. I was immediately turned off by the four of these people. I feel like calling these four friends feels a little strange. The two women are meant to be the best of friends but feel like enemies. The boyfriend of the best friend hates the main character. It's an hour and twenty minutes of bickering back and forth.

If they've set out to deliver a story where we care about these characters, we don't. Not one of these people is likeable. In not making any of these characters relatable, we really have no one to root for once the movie detours from this cover-up murder into something else entirely. Once the group gets to the desert, you think the story will be about mistrust, possibly about these friends maybe killing each other, so no one rats anyone out for hiding the body. Boy, was I wrong?

Friends Don't Let Friends has this switch-up about midway through the movie. Once they bury the body. The corpse comes back from the dead and starts to prey on the group of friends. I actually liked this element of the story. It goes from this group of friends bickering to them fighting for survival against what appears to be a zombie. As the story progresses, we have this demon with tree-like claws hunting down the group. It's all very odd.

Sadly, the twist in the third act sort of kills everything that came before it. I see what the director was trying to do here, but it's a twist that we've seen before. It was done much better and a lot more successfully in James Mangold's brilliant Identity. They've thrown in this last minute twist, and it sort of turns an already unusual story into one that feels entirely absurd and unoriginal. I think I would've just been happier with the tree-monster zombie killing everyone off and it just ending at that point.

I read in another review that the movie was shot over one night. I have no idea if this is true. I feel that the film is incredibly low-budget. I wouldn't be shocked if this was a group of friends who just got their camera and filmed this over a weekend. There are scenes where they are meant to be in the desert, hiding a body, yet you can see what looks like cars driving by, or city lights just off in the distance. It doesn't feel like this group is being very inconspicuous. It seems a little shoddy. Still, can't hate on them for giving it a red hot go.

Lastly, we come to the creature design, and gore effects. The movie contains enough violence and bloodshed that should keep gore hounds happy. A person is beheaded, we have strangulation, a person smashes and has their head smashed in with rocks. You will get some of the red stuff. For such a low-budget, you can tell the creature is used only minimally. We don't get any bright shots or close-ups. Again, I think they have tried, and they at least deserve a round of applause for that.



- A woman strangles her ex-boyfriend to death.
- A guy is dragged off by a monster.
- A man's head is sliced off with a shovel.
- Remains of blood are found in the sand.
- A guy tears the skin off of his own face.
- A guy is pushed off a cliff and cracks his skull open on the rocks below.
- A woman beats another woman's head in with a rock.

Friends Don't Let Friends is a story that turns from a murder cover-up, into a zombie film, which slowly morphs into a monster movie, that ends with a psychological twist. I think what hurt the movie for me was that we have a group of incredibly unlikeable characters. I had no one to root for here. It's an hour and twenty minutes of bickering and infighting. I do admire what they've tried to accomplish here; I personally didn't enjoy a lot of what ended up on screen.

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