If Superbad (2007) and The World’s End (2013) had a lovechild who was then raised by H.G. Wells and Leatherface, it would be the reflective, emotionally charged Plus One (2013). Part raunchy comedy, part “what-are-we-to-the-universe” science fiction, this film seamlessly blends outrageous drunkeness, awkward humor, excessive violence, and the question of personal identity into one crazy night.
From Dennis Illiadis, director of the fiercely bloody Last House on the Left, and first time screenwriter Billy Gallo comes the story of three friends as they attend an out of control hometown party, each longing for something. David (Rhys Wakefield) is hoping is hoping to win back recent girlfriend Jill (Ashley Hinshaw, Chronicle, About Cherry). Teddy (Logan Miller, The Bling Ring) is looking to get laid. Allison (played by real life twins Colleen and Suzanne Dengel) just doesn’t want to feel alone.
Even before the party begins, however, a series of brief power outages suggest a recent fallen comet is more than it seems and as the evening goes on, chaos ensues. Everyone experiences the event differently, and as a result responds in a variety of ways to what may very well be the beginning or the end of their lives.
The masterful use of cinematography and staging along with a cleverly crafted script elevate this horror/sci-fi experiment into it’s own private little niche. It seeks to make the audience laugh, gasp, and question the idea of what makes us who we are.
The sense that something is wrong begins rather subtly. A reflection in a mirror. A strange glow generated from electrical sources. The lights flicker and slowly but surely partygoers begin to notice the shift. Illiadis knows what he’s doing and Gallo’s script manages to cover a lot of ground without falling too deeply into any one stereotypical genre structure. The young partygoers are relatable and flawed, and Gallo smoothly blend youthful stereotypes with realistic, personal narratives. Cinematographer Mihai Malaimare, who’s credits include The Master and Youth Without Youth, is quite possibly a genius in his molding of light, color, and reality itself.
The young cast matches the crew in skill and talent. Wakefield, known most recently as the disturbingly at east psychopath in The Purge (2013) plays David with all the complexities of a young man in love with just the right amount of calculation, naivety, and moral ambiguity. His ex is played by lovely, natural ease by Hinshaw. Then endearing nature of their relationship in the first few moments of the film seals the audience’s investment in them. The chemistry is there and softens Wakefield’s naturally unsettling presence. Miller manages to bring enough humor to the role of Teddy, while at the same time emerging as a strange and unexpected voice of reason. The Dengel sisters have an earthy quality to them that makes for a very organic presence, reminiscent of Lauren Ambrose’s Claire Fisher in Six Feet Under.
This movie is not for everyone. Sci-fi or horror purists will not find convention in this strikingly original film. YetPlus One manages to cross a lot of lines into genres that appeal on a wide scale. It explores readily identifiable tropes, including the complexities of relationships and the struggles of knowing oneself. It also brings to question the idea of identity itself and what makes someone human, without failing to add a dash of brain splatter and eye gouging, just to make things interesting.
As with much ofsci-fi, one cannot question the logic of this world too critically. A lot of what is happening, particularly at the conclusion of the film, is open to interpretation. And criticism. But that’s the point. The audience is meant go along with the characters in questioning this reality. In resisting. Embracing. Doubting. In this night filled with sex, drugs, and Doppelgangers, everything is open to interpretation and nothing is meant to go unnoticed.
The special features included on the DVD are obviously bits and pieces of extra footage and interviews haphazardly put together, but they do offer some interesting insight. This is fairly typical with films of this size, for there is less hype and therefore less cause for formal promotion leading up to its release than with big budget films. Nonetheless, the single-disc DVD does have a few things to offer. There is a commentary with Illiadis and cinematographer Malaimare, along with deleted scenes and a few interviews conducted at the festivals the movie showed at. There is a trailer for Plus One, as well as other films recently or soon to be released by IFC.
The most unique feature is probably a set of brief cast audition tapes in which the actors, including Hinshaw, Hall, and Miller, are asked to describe reoccurring dreams they’ve had in the past or present. It shows that the filmmakers are very aware of their subject material and interested in what their actors bring to the film on both a physical and psychological level.