Alternate Title: +1
The Twilight Zone drops acid, trips the light fantastic and does the Time Warp again in this existential science fiction suspenser from IFC Midnight and the man behind the Last House on the Left remake – Dennis Iliadis.
After introducing us to our admittedly bland leads that as FEARnet pointed out are essentially comprised of horror movie archetypes, Iliadis and scripter Bill Gullo (who penned the screenplay based on Iliadis’s original idea) mix things up for the better.
Employing the metaphysical for the film’s turn of the events – after some sort of unidentifiable cosmic debris crash lands to Earth and sparks a strong electrical current, movie madness ensues.
While the intermittent blackouts that first arise are annoying enough, eventually the intergalactic phenomena moves from mood lighting to the sudden appearance of doppelgangers as one by one, everyone present at the wildest party of the year find themselves coming face-to-face with uninvited guests that look exactly like each one of the inebriated revelers.
What was intended to celebrate the start of summer vacation and those returning from far-away university life back to their old stomping ground escalates into something different altogether over the course of a few hours.
Attempting to break up the horror with stereotypical horror movie humor, Plus One opts for a clever play on gratuitous genre sex by introducing the arrival of a double after our hero David’s obligatory comedic sidekick (Logan Miller) somehow scores with a girl way out of his league (Melanie Hall) and is stunned by her sudden reappearance next to him after she’d just left the room to take a shower.
While initially terrified by the sudden arrival of their mirror images who seem to be following the footsteps they’d taken fifteen minutes earlier, the first small group of characters who identify the doubles all react to the phenomena in very different ways from murder to using the impossible discovery to their advantage.
Having unintentionally screwed up what should’ve been a romantic reunion with his girlfriend Jill (Ashley Hinshaw) at the start of the film in a teasing foreshadow of the “doubles” that would follow when he surprises the wrong girl from behind, Rhys Wakefield’s David tries to use his double to win her back by anticipating her every thought in a conversation that had previously resulted in heartbreak.
While David’s scenes with Jill immediately remind viewers of a Gen Y variation of Bill Murray trying to seduce Andie MacDowell in Groundhog Day, fortunately the film has much more on its mind than cheap Back to the Future gimmickry.
Though ultimately the idea for the film is light years more impressive than Plus's overall execution as it gets bogged down with characters by going in far too many directions at once and spending way too much time with some very unlikable, narcissistic partiers, overall it’s a great showcase for the filmmaker given his ability to play with horror conventions in surprising ways.
While I applaud the film’s ambition to break from the status quo, Plus One may have worked much better as a live action short as it can’t sustain the inventiveness of its plotline for the full feature run time. More specifically, the way it devolves into a violent mob attack and unconvincingly segues into a convenient wrap up makes us long for its clever first act and original focus on only a handful of characters before losing itself in the chaos of everyone freaking out.
At the same time, even if its guise as a thinking horror movie goes out the window somewhere during the freewheeling third act, as a writer I appreciated the way that Gullo playfully called out our hero’s inability to change in the opening scenes and then spent the rest of the film forcing him adapt to change.
Ultimately doing its best to keep us distracted with eye candy from its emphasis on pretty people partying via a vibrant, pulsating, colorful visual sweep that called to mind Doug Liman’s Go, Plus One is visually heightened with its glow-stick aesthetics and pops of color amid the darkness of such a crazy night.
A veritable smorgasbord of science fiction homage, although there’s a great film to be found at the core of Plus One, unfortunately the one that made it to the screen wasn’t it. And although it starts strong, by not fully committing to the exploration of its doppelganger plot twist, Plus One is an impressively imaginative yet ultimately half-successful work that is altogether more fun to describe to others than it is to watch for its entire 95 minute running time.
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