Have you ever been willing to risk everything to be accepted by society?
That is the case for the characters in Pledge, a new horror-thriller written by Zack Weiner and directed by Daniel Robbins. The film is about a group of college freshmen that pledge a college fraternity, only to be faced by a hazing process that is quite… extreme. It debuted at the 2018 Fantasia Film Festival.
The story isn’t particularly extraordinary — it’s just a survive-the-night thriller set against the backdrop of college hazing. However, the way in which this relatively straightforward plot is handled and expanded upon makes the movie great. Pledge is one of the most interesting and suspenseful thrillers since Green Room.
Perhaps this film’s biggest success is its use of world-building. The “social club” which serves as the focus of the story has quite a bit of mythology built into it. This does lend the movie an element of realism, as real-life fraternities have specific, weird, and secretive traditions. In fact, the world is so intriguing that it would be nice to see a loose sequel that explores the “social club” even more.
However, this world-building — no matter how intriguing — lends itself to some loose ends. Some aspects of the film don’t exactly make sense, especially in relation to the female characters. There are some interesting ideas that are hinted at, but never developed, such as a potential sorority counterpart to the fraternity. The movie had plenty of time to spare, so it would have been nice had this been explored with more depth.
The film moves along at a breakneck pace, wrapping you in its intensity and barely giving you time to think about what is happening. The runtime is only an hour and seventeen minutes, so every second mattered. Weiner’s script incorporated a lot of comedy, especially towards the beginning. However, even the most dark and violent moments are presented with a satirical edge.
The actors all do a great job with their roles. They are obviously all having fun reveling in the B-movie glory. The standout is Aaron Dalla Villa, who plays Max. He absolutely nails both the creepy and the charismatic aspects of the character’s personality. The writer, Weiner, is also an actor in the movie, and he is hilarious in the role.
The technical aspects are also quite impressive. There are some very creepy visuals in this film. The cinematography by William Babcock is excellent (apart from that in a few party scenes, which was a bit excessive). The practical effects are amazing, especially for an indie. Jon Natchez’s score was also quite interesting, making the movie even creepier.
Overall, Pledge is a very interesting horror film. Despite a few underdeveloped aspects, it is one of the most well-shot and compelling B-movies to be released in a while.
Pledge is now in select theaters and on demand.