Saturday, December 26, 2015

#ArchiveDay: "+1 (Plus One)" (2013) - An Apocalypse of Self-Love

Theatrical poster for "+1" (2013)
Theatrical poster for "+1" (2013)

"+1" (NR (USA), IFC Midnight, 2013) is a science fiction thriller (with horror elements) that seems at first like a romantic drama, but soon turns ugly with the help of a malevolent force from outer space. Focusing on themes of youthful narcissism and hedonism, it sends a disturbing message about Millennials, while softening the blow with comic relief and well-done visuals and sound.


Background and Credits


Dennis Iliadis (“The Last House on the Left,” 2009) directed the film, for which he also created the story. Bill Gullo (“The Ignorant Bliss of Sun and Moon,” video short, 2008) wrote the screenplay. Mihai Malaimare Jr. (“Tetro,” (2009) did the cinematography; Yorgos Mavropsaridis edited the footage. The film has an original musical score, composed by Nathan Larson, that nicely complements its visuals. IFC Midnight picked up the film for U.S. distribution after it premiered at the 2013 South by Southwest Film Festival.

Story Summary


Still from "+1" (2013)
David (Wakefield) and Jill (Hinshaw)

The story arc that ties the film together involves the breakup of a two-year relationship between David (Rhys Wakefield) and Jill (Ashley Hinshaw), who were sweethearts in high school. For freshman year of college, David stayed home to attend a local community college, while Jill went away to an out-of-town university. David surprises her by visiting her campus at the end of freshman year to watch her compete in a fencing tournament. She loses her final match and then catches David kissing her opponent afterwards. She quickly dumps him.


Still from "+1" (2013)
Angad (Kymal, center) in the midst of his epic party

Back home, Angad (Rohan Kymal) throws an epic end-of-freshman-year party (at his wealthy family’s home) for his former high-school classmates. David goes to the party with his geeky friend Teddy (Logan Miller) and perpetual wallflower Brenda (April Billingsley). David is preoccupied with finding and apologizing to Jill, who has been avoiding him. She arrives at the party with another guy. Teddy just wants to get lucky. Brenda doesn’t even want to be there, but since she is, she plans to get some payback for being insulted and shunned in high school.

The intentions of all three are derailed by the effects of a meteor that strikes the Earth near Angad’s house. It contains a mysterious force that invades the power lines in the neighborhood. This gives it access to the party house, where it creates a Doppelgänger of each person at the party. At first, each person is out of sync in time with his or her twin. However, the force continues to exert its power at intervals, moving the Doppelgängers nearer in time to their originals. As partiers begin to meet their twins, horrific events start to occur. David, Teddy, and Brenda realize what is going on and eventually convince some of the others of its danger, but will this handful of characters be able to warn the rest of their party-animal classmates and avert a massacre?

Commentary




Although the “force from outer space” device makes the story sound corny, I assure you that it is not. In fact, the premise for this film is rather ingenious. It uses the trope of the parallel universe to confront each character with him- or herself. Those who are vain and conceited cannot bear the presence of their twins; these pairs of twins try to kill each other (and sometimes succeed). Only Brenda has a positive (yet creepy) experience with herself, one that leaves her with self-esteem for the first time in her life. 

The key to resolving the situation is the relationship between David and Jill. David needs to win her back, but at first he has trouble telling her apart from her Doppelgänger. Honest and sincere love is the only weapon against the supernatural power of the extraterrestrial enemy, so David must succeed if he is to save his classmates.

Still from "+1" (2013)
The body buffet

This story allows for some comic relief (such as the “body buffet,” which leads to a scene involving naked martial arts). The awkwardness of young adult sexuality and the mask of false confidence that covers it are also thoroughly satirized. Along the way, there are “Animal House”-style party antics, sex, murder, and slasher-style horror. 

The special effects are well done, especially for a low-budget indie film, enhancing rather than derailing the movement of the action. The film suffers in the awkwardly-scripted relationship between David and Jill, particularly in the way that it is resolved, although this weakness is partially obscured by the strength of the other characters’ reactions to the experience of meeting themselves.

Summary


This film certainly qualifies as an underrated indie film. “+1” tells a cleverly designed story that takes aim at the narcissism and hedonism of suburb-raised young adults in the early years of college, as well as at the persistence of the social pecking order of high school after graduation. Along the way, it provides comedy, visuals, and sound that keep the viewer focused. Although the ending might seem happy, its implications for most of the characters are not.

TFK's Rating (on IMDb): 6 out of 10 stars


Disclosure: On August 31, 2014, TFK originally (and rather stupidly) posted this review on his Tumblr. It has been edited for reposting on this blog for Twitter's #ArchiveDay.