As somebody whose college years are well behind them, I’m not quite sure what to make of the conflicting information I hear about the social scene on campus here in the not-so-early-anymore years of the 21st century. On the one hand, I’ve read a number of articles saying that the days of hard partying are pretty much over with thanks to dating apps like tinder that allow kids to hook up in minutes and have therefore pretty much nullified the need for large social gatherings in order to meet people of the opposite (or same) sex. Heck, I’ve even heard that the popularity of all these “instant dating” opportunities has put a fair number of bars out of business. On the other hand, though, there are movies like 2013’s +1 (also known by the alternate title of Shadow Walkers) that would seem to posit that not only is the “house party” scene alive and well, it’s actually far more unhinged and debauched than anything me or my fellow “Generation X”ers could have possibly dreamed of.
Who knows — maybe both scenarios are true, maybe both are exaggerations, or maybe director Dennis Iliadis (who was also responsible for the tepid 2009 remake of The Last House On The Left) is just indulging in a bit of fanciful wish-fulfillment here by telling a story about the kind of party he wished he could have gone to back when he was a twenty-something himself. But if that’s the case, then gosh — that would mean movies are lying to us, and we all know that never happens.
Whatever the truth (or, hey, its opposite) may be, our story here centers on the on-again/off-again romance between David (played by Rhys Wakefield) and Jill (Ashley Hinshaw), who are currently experiencing something of an “off-again” phase now that Jill seems to be moving forward with her life while David appears stuck in an overly-idealized version of their past. Tonight they’re headed for what’s being billed as “the party of the year” being thrown by (I’m assuming) rick kid Angad (Rohan Kymal), with their friend Teddy (Logan Miller) in tow. Teddy’s got his sights set on finally getting his big chance with the girl of his dreams, Melanie (Natalie Hall), David’s determined to right the course of his relationship with Jill, and somewhere in the midst of all this soap opera drama everyone’s hoping to get wasted on booze, drugs, or both and have a crazy-ass good time.
As the photos included with this review show, the party turns out to be every bit the decadent Baccahinalia it’s been word-of-mouth advertised as, with pretty much nothing being “off-limits,” but the freak crash-landing of a meteorite (or something) nearby and the ensuing electrical disturbance it causes ends up having the “didn’t-see-that-coming” side effect of creating dopplegangers of everyone who’s at the party, and the —shall we say — uncharacterisitc behavior of these duplicates serves, naturally, to complicate the lives of the people they look just like to no end.
If all of this sounds to you like a somewhat raunchy updating of Night Of The Comet, only with a bunch of body-doubles thrown in, you’re not too far off the mark. Iliadis has a decent flair for creating striking visuals (a semi-generous serving of nudity certainly helps in this regard), and his story (which was fleshed out into screenplay form by Bill Gullo) is at least interesting enough to keep you watching, but unless you’re a dedicated 21-year-old party animal yourself, chances are that you won’t find +1 anything other than an interesting-enough cinematic curiosity that hangs around the “this is worth sticking with” threshold but never really rises above it.
Here’s the rub, though : I’m not really sure whose fault it is that this flick can’t seem to find that next plateau. Granted, the characters aren’t exactly what you’d call terribly interesting, but most of them are at least semi-likable, and the actors all do a competent enough, if unspectacular, job of bringing them to life. Likewise, the film is reasonably well-directed and navigates some tricky tonal shifts without too much trouble. By the time the end credits roll, though, the most I was willing to say for +1 was that I didn’t feel like it was a waste of time.
Okay, fair enough, that’s because it wasn’t, but it’s also not really worth actively seeking out or anything, either (good thing it’s currently available on Netflix), and if something had come up halfway through that demanded my attention and necessitated me bailing on the movie, I wouldn’t have felt terribly compelled to resume and finish it later.
Still, finish it I did, and while it would be grossly unfair for me to say that I regretted doing so, I wasn’t particularly glad that I did, either. +1 is one of those movies that just sort of happens, and then it’s done — rather like the vast majority of the college parties that I went to back in the day.