FEARNET Movie Review: '+1' (aka 'Plus One')


Have you ever seen a movie about a group of high school (or perhaps college age) kids who go to a party, only to come up against something outrageously violent or dangerous or horrific? Of course you have. You're older than ten years old and you're reading film reviews on FEARnet. It's only pertinent because the new sci-fi / horror / feature-length Twilight Zone-ish movie called Plus One (or simply +1) is well aware of all those movies, and it knows you are too. 

With that in mind, it's cool to note that Plus One is not about stalkers or monsters or alien invaders. As the title plainly indicates, it's a thriller about "plus ones." In other words, everyone at this rowdy house party seems to have spawned a double! Or a clone! Or something like that. Most of the partiers are way too distracted to notice the bizarre new arrivals, but we do have a quartet of colorful heroes in Nice Guy, Angry Girlfriend, Comic Relief, and Unexpectedly Intelligent Hottie. (Those aren't the character's actual names, but it sums them up fairly well, and it's not a knock on the performances, which are all quite good.)
Director Dennis Iliadis (last seen helming the surprisingly solid remake of The Last House on the Left) wants to keep a lot of plates spinning here. At certain points Plus One feels like a John Hughes homage, an affectionate send-up of 1950s sci-fi thrillers, and a pointed piece of satire about the dangers of conformity, especially among people who are young, naive, and very, very drunk. If Plus One doesn't keep all those plates aloft for a full 90-some minutes -- there are some clunky moments of exposition and a few sequences that simply run way too long -- we can give the filmmakers credit for trying a new approach. We can only take so many slasher attacks, after all, and it's not like they lend themselves well to any sort of amusing social commentary.
Aside from a rocky start and a handful of moments that feel simply redundant (perhaps by design), Plus One has just enough multi-genre appeal to keep viewers interested. Each of the four semi-heroes find their own way to deal with this unexpected "attack of the clones," so if the romance between Nice Guy (Rhys Wakefield) and Angry Girlfriend (Ashley Hinshaw) doesn't work for you, you can choose to focus on the Comic Relief (Logan Miller) or the Unexpectedly Intelligent Hottie (Natalie Hall). Also rather good are twin actresses Suzanne and Colleen Dengel as the shy but very sharp Lonely Girl. Even when the pacing of Plus One winds down a bit (like in Act II), the leads are quite appealing and their material (by screenwriter Bill Gullo) is a touch more intelligent than one normally sees in indie-style multi-genre concoctions.
The comparison to Rod Serling's classic anthology series The Twilight Zone is a double-edged sword, as it turns out. As novel and clever as Plus One manages to be at its best moments, it sometimes feels like a 50-minute film that's been stretched out to meet a traditional feature length. Nothing egregious enough to make the film wear out its welcome too much, but let's just say the flick sags (almost noticeably) in Act II before finding its feet for a legitimately fascinating and energetic finale. Mark it down as a decent, uneven, well-made spin on a very standard horror story -- and let's hope it's not another four years before Dennis Iliadis directs another genre movie. This guy seems to know his sci-fi and horror.

Read FEARnet's partner reviews of 'Plus One'