DVD Review: Plus One

Published on January 17th, 2014 in: Current Faves, DVD, DVD/Blu-Ray Reviews, Movie Reviews, Movies, Reviews, Science and Technology |

By Less Lee Moore

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Admittedly, I haven’t been keeping up with teen movies lately, but Plus One is way better than the ones I remember from decades past.

The film opens with an extreme close up of a dewy pink rose petal and the radio-friendly “Jezebel” by Two Hours Traffic. David is bringing flowers to his girlfriend Jill (Ashley Hinshaw) who’s away at college. Only Jill doesn’t know that David’s visiting her. The mistaken identity situation and the couple’s resulting breakup are about as predictable as anything from your average corny sitcom; the “wealthy teenager throws over-the-top bash while his parents are out of town” scenario that follows is a no-brainer, too. There’s also the pretty girl (Allison) who’s inexplicably an outcast, the crazy friend with the weird haircut, and so on.

Yet, once the thrust of Plus One reveals itself, it turns into an impressive movie. There’s a comet that crashes and causes not only intermittent blackouts, but also something potentially sinister. Viewers will either figure it out quickly or know about it already from trailers and promos for the film, but it’s the path that this plot device takes which is the real pleasure.

Rhys Wakefield is well cast as David, and plays his role so convincingly that I completely forgot that he was the smarmy guy from The Purge. The rest of the cast is as attractive as actors in a teen movie should be, but Logan Miller is particularly enjoyable as Teddy, David’s smart-ass best friend.

Even though the party scenes might feel predictable, there are still enough genuinely funny bits within to keep you amused, especially anything involving Angad (Rohan Kymal), the party host. The sex scenes between Teddy and Melanie (Natalie Hall) are an ongoing source of hilarity as well. Director of Photography Mihai Malaimare, Jr. (The Master) does a great job at maintaining a balance between the party atmosphere and the creepier second half without any clich├ęd or obvious cues. The outstanding visual effects from Lola and Hydraulx definitely put Plus One in a league above what you might expect from the first half hour of the movie.

When things start to get weird, they get really weird and in ways that you can’t necessarily foresee. The score, by former Shudder To Think guitarist Nathan Larson, is perfect at conveying a sense of unease and confusion, particularly in the pool house segment, which is one of the most unsettling parts of the film.

Director Dennis Iliadis doesn’t try to hit viewers over the head with any lessons; he just presents a situation and lets it unfold. The cast does a great job of reacting naturally to the events of the film instead of trying to force a response from the audience. One could make some dark observations about manipulation between genders or find a deeper meaning in Allison’s relationship to her double, as well as the contrast in the way that things turn out for Chris and Jill versus the rest of the party guests, but the movie doesn’t try to hammer any of that home, allowing you to ruminate on things after it ends.

Plus One is not a straight genre picture but a skillful mashup of comedy, thriller, and science fiction. It’s more intelligent than most movies about teenage parties and definitely one that you won’t soon forget.

Plus One was released on DVD on January 14, 2014 from IFC Films. The DVD has a lot of extras: a Shockya.com interview with Iliadis, Hinshaw, Wakefield, and Miller from SXSW 2013; a Screenslam interview with Iliadis; cast auditions; a storyboard to film comparison; two VFX behind the scenes featurettes; outtakes of Teddy picking up Melanie (which are very funny); two onset demos set to music; an SFX make-up slide show; poster art; and trailers.

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