Thursday, October 02, 2014

30 Days of Nightmares #2: PLUS ONE (2013)

The Story: A bunch of drunk college kids encounter their alien doubles at a party.

Expectations: I watched this because it was directed by Daniel Iliadis, the man Wes Craven handpicked to remake LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT.  And because I'd heard that it was a mind-bending horror movie in the TWILIGHT ZONE vein.  Oh, and let's be honest, because of the poster.

Reaction: There seems to be a thriving subgenre of TWILIGHT ZONE-esque horror flicks in recent years.  TRIANGLE, THE CALLER, and YELLOWBRICKROAD all impressed me.  On one hand, all of these films feel vaguely familiar--as if they've been done before--but on the other hand I appreciate genre films that are ambitious enough to tackle the heady subject matter of space-time.  PLUS ONE is a fair-to-middling entry in this subgenre.  In its better moments it's sort of like THE RULES OF ATTRACTION by way of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS.  In its weaker moments it's CAN'T HARDLY WAIT by way of THE FACULTY.

The basic idea is that, every time the lights go out at a particularly well-produced college party, a large group of horny teenagers get closer and closer to literally bumping into their alien doppelgangers.  It may be hard to suspend your disbelief in such an abstract scenario, and the actions of the characters don't really help much, but I must admit I couldn't stop watching.  I had to find out what happened if/when the two worlds collided.  I wasn't much awed by the climax.  Like I said, this is comparable to a fair-to-middling TWILIGHT ZONE episode (remember the 80s episode "Shatterday?")... the kind that feels forced rather than truly original.  But it's still a slick and interesting musing on the theme of alienation.

Most Nightmare-Worthy Moment: I have always been fascinated by the doppelganger concept, ever since I saw the original BODY SNATCHERS as a teenager.  Like most people, I suppose, my preconceptions about the basic doppelganger idea are related to that film.  We all sort of know that if a story introduces a doppelganger, there will inevitably be a struggle for dominance to determine which version is real.  In BODY SNATCHERS, we naturally symapthize with the humans over the aliens.  In PLUS ONE, however, the alien doppelgangers are (for most of the film, at least) completely indistinguishable from their human counterparts... and the humans are so blandly self-absorbed that it's hard to care whether or not they get replaced.  The nightmare, I suppose, is that no one in this film is very admirable in their humanity.... but, unfortunately, that resonates more as an afterthought than as a felt experience.  This is a film with surprisingly little visceral impact. 

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