Review by James Lindorf
IFC Midnight will be distributing Pledge, from Director Daniel Robbins, Writer Zachary Weiner and Producer Mark Rapaport in theaters and VOD January 11th. Three socially inept college freshmen, Ethan (Phillip Andre Botello), David (Zachary Weiner), and Justin (Zachery Byrd), have been rejected and ridiculed by just about every fraternity on campus. Only when they are ready to succumb to a future as outsiders, a mystery girl invites them off campus to a party at a secluded mansion. The party is everything they dreamed college could be, beautiful women, drinking, and most importantly, a cool group of guys willing to accept them as they are. Things get even better when they are given the opportunity to pledge the elite social club and accept without hesitation. To become full-fledged members, they will have to survive 48 hours of gruesome and dehumanizing hazing, which is only a disguise to the club’s true sinister intentions.
College Greek life has a long history in film, from Animal House in the ’70s, Revenge of the Nerds in the ’80s, to Old School and Accepted in the 2000s. Most of the movies are of the fun-loving comedy variety, but a few like Sorority Row and Burning Sands chose to explore the groups darker sides, to varying degrees of success. The most apt comparison to Pledge is the 2000 movie, Skulls, about an outsider wanting to join a secret society with deadly results. While Pledge lacks the star power and budget of that movie, it is a technically better film in almost every aspect.
Lead by a cast filled with relative newcomers and unknowns, Pledge features some good performances from both the victims and the abusers, though the villains tend to go a bit over the top during their more manic moments. The best of the group was probably Zachary Weiner as David. He is the leader of the three friends and the driving force for them rushing a fraternity. The most lackluster performance of the group was from Jesse Pimentel. Of the club members, he has the least amount of screen time, giving his character the least amount of variance as he spent the most time in a manic phase.
One area where the film excelled was in its sound. The music was a blend of up-tempo and ominous that fit the tone of the film very well, but it was the sound effects that really shined. The screaming, fighting and sounds of torture rivaled anything this side of Saw and Hostel, and were enough to drive my wife from the room until the credits rolled.
Pledge does not do anything revolutionary, but is a good little horror movie that could have been something special if the script would have reached for more. Instead of a genre-busting hit, it is destined to be a cult hit that that livens up dorm rooms for years to come.