Dark humor is a tricky thing to pull off and, at times, an even trickier thing to like. For every stellar example (Last Supper, World’s Greatest Dad, May, Serial Mom, Loved Ones, Shallow Grave) there are many examples of lousy ones (nearly everything Todd Solondz has ever directed) that litter the conversation. Basically, beauty is in the eye of the beholder when it comes to dark comedy and so one recommends things of this cut of cloth with some amount of grain of salt added. I say this because I enjoyed the hell out of the jet black humor paraded around in Danielle Harris’ Among Friends.
The story centers around a group of friends heading to an 80’s themed murder mystery party thrown by their collective friend Bernadette (Alyssa Lobit who also wrote the script) who is known for doing these things. The group seems more or less an affable bunch and includes Jennifer Blanc, Brianne Davis, Chris Meyer, AJ Bowen, Christopher Backus and the lovely Kamala Jones (a Texas girl!) all done up in 80’s garb. The crimped hair and absurd ties all add to the amusing and seemingly innocent setup. This is balanced, however, by drug use and crude sexual jokes that seem to place this group firmly in the mature-but-not-mature kind of classification. Not threatening but not innocent either.
They make their way to Bernadette’s home and begin their evening with drinks and light banter around the kitchen. This is buoyed by a brief black and white shot early on a girl, either dead or dying, lying in a bathtub with a lot of blood. Something strange might be afoot but we go away from it quickly. A quick cameo by Kane Hodder as their limo driver is punctuated by a fantastic (either intentional or unintentional) homage to Chevy Chase’s scene in Christmas Vacation where he is forced to acknowledge a series of executives all in a row. Here, Hodder grumbles a series of sexual and/or insulting comments to each party goer as they exit the limo and just nails it. So funny. Other cameos will give you the grins too in an inspired bit of screwball dream sequence/drug trip a little later on in the film.
Anyway, pretty quickly we realize that the party, and Bernadette’s motives aren’t exactly what they seem and once the murder mystery part of things gets going, these quasi-innocent but dimwitted friends are thrust into a seriously screwed up version of questions and answers where wrong statements get nails driven into hands and only one vote can give the group a clue but cost a group member a finger. I don’t want to get into why it is that this escallates to this point because it is better enjoyed as it all comes together but sufficied to say, this bunch haven’t gotten away with much over the last year they’ve known ‘Bernie’ and now they are having to pay the price for all of it. Whether that makes sense or not, or, if a grand display of morality like that even makes sense in the face of its own rules (even touched on during one arguement) doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that they are in a seriously bad situation with seriously the wrong person to be there with.
The tense and frankly dementedly-screwy third act brings it all around to where we started (in more ways than one) but one can’t help but think if a little more about Bernie’s background or more interpersonal stuff between group members would have helped the story as a whole. Because as it stands, it is a grand, mean spirited little romp down morality lane and it works swimmingly that way. However, a larger budget and possibly a little more depth would’ve brought even more of a demented master plan to the ordeal and could’ve made it even more juicy. But again, it works as it is.
All in all, Harris has done just fine with a seemingly limited set of resources (which, to be fair, does show at times) and directed a nicely viscious horror/comedy about truth and civility in the bloodiest of ways. Stay through the credits too, worth it, made me smile.