Danielle Harris, best known for her roles in Halloween 4 and 5 as well as the two Rob Zombie Halloween "remakes", makes her directorial debut with Among Friends. Bernadette (Alyssa Lobit, who also wrote the movie) hosts get-togethers at her house in Hollywood for her friends Blane (Chris Meyer), Melanie (Jennifer Blanc), Sara (Kamala Jones), Marcus (Christopher Backus), Lily (Dana Daurey), and brother and sister Adam (AJ Bowen) and Jules (Brianne Davis), who are all in the movie business. Bernadette has them all (except Lily, whose whereabouts remain a mystery until later) picked up in a limousine with the driver played by Kane Hodder, best known for playing Jason the largest number of times in the Friday the 13th series. Tonight is a murder-mystery dinner party, with the theme being prom night in 1984 where one person in a group of friends has killed another in the group. Bernadette has hidden clues around the house that will reveal who the killer is, so the friends split up to search, then meet around the dining room table to put their clues together and solve the mystery.
However, once they get to the dining room, Bernadette has other plans that put the game on hold. It's soon discovered that she's drugged everybody so that they cannot get up from their chairs, and she then duct-tapes everyone's arms to further immobilize them. When they ask her what she's doing, she introduces several "rules" that give her the right to do things to them such as practically scalping one girl later nailing her hand to the table. She further brings tension into the gathering by showing hidden-camera footage of their misdeeds at previous gatherings, such as cheating and raping. (Despite this footage being shown on a modern flatscreen TV, it is jittery and includes scan lines. The movie flashes back briefly to these situations in color, but just long enough to show what was happening and doesn't get in the way of the present story.) This makes the partygoers angry at each other as they see their so-called friends committing these acts, to Bernadette's delight.
Thankfully, Among Friends is only 80 minutes long, had it run much longer it might have been as agonizing to watch as it was for these characters to be in this situation. The movie doesn't give you much of a backstory of these people but seeing from the beginning that most of them are drug abusers and say bad things about each other behind their backs, I really didn't feel too sorry for any of them once Bernadette had them trapped. If anything, just her being around them might have been enough to make her go nuts as she does here. Had this movie gotten a regular theatrical release, I could see many patrons walking out halfway through either out of disgust from what happens or being simply bored and not wanting to waste any more time with it. The production and acting are on the level of a 1980s straight-to-video or cable movie, which Danielle Harris mentions in the commentary track is sort of what she was going for but having suffered through many of those types of movies back then I didn't really have much longing to revisit them.
The 16x9 formatted, 1.78 picture looks pretty good for a standard DVD, with no obvious compression artifacts and good detail. (There is no Blu-Ray release of this movie in the US, but I have read that one will be available in Canada.) Again, it has many of the qualities of a 1980s B-movie made primarily for the home video or cable markets rather than theatrical showings. If you've watched enough of those, you will definitely see what I'm talking about here.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital mix provides intelligible dialogue and a few interesting musical choices, which are also discussed a bit on the commentary track. The surrounds are used rather sparingly but there are a couple of good echoing effects as characters are shown hallucinating.
English and Spanish subtitles are included as well as TV-decoded closed captions.
A commentary track is included with director Danielle Harris and actors Jennifer Blanc and AJ Bowen. They have enough things to say through the length of the movie without any stretches of silence, though they mainly laugh at the movie and make fun of how they look onscreen. Danielle Harris does get in a few details however such as her desire to make this look like a 1980s B-movie. A "look for it on DVD" trailer for Among Friends is also included along with similar trailers for Vampire, Lord of Darkness, Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection and Nailbiter (all in 16x9 with 2-channel sound) as well as a promo for the Epix cable channel.
While it was interesting to see Danielle Harris take a stab at directing and I'll like to see what she does next, Among Friends just doesn't have a lot going on, and the characters are simply unlikeable which will likely make many viewers apathetic as to whether they live or die.
Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.