Pledge flew under the radar of many horror fans, but still enjoyed a successful festival run earning awards for Best Director and Best Editing at the Screamfest Horror Film Festival, although a scant 77-minutes, delivers a straight-forward and compelling story. Directed by Daniel Robbins, who also helmed the Uncaged (2016) while reteaming with screenwriter Zack Weiner who also stars as David, one of the lead roles in the film, impressively enough the movie earned distribution through IFC Midnight. In an era of hazing incidents and crimes, this movie either serves as a warning to students or frightening tale of worry for parents, you’ll need to decide for yourselves. Needless to say, college theme horror movies always waiver heavily in the genre, it’s nice to revisit the subgenre without it presenting as a slasher creation.
It’s the beginning a new semester and three friends, appear as outsiders to everyone else, David (Zack Weiner), Ethan (Phillip Andre Botello (Minutes to Midnight )), and Justin (Zachery Byrd), they’re definitely not typical frat material. Early in the movie, one witnesses many cruel attitudes towards to them, open houses closing their doors to them, it feels a tinge like Revenge of the Nerds (1984), their frustration carries over to the audience, as everyone wants to belong to a click or group. After a series of strange events, they find themselves invited to private party at a country estate house that includes booze and many women, though absent the customary T&A, just scantily clothed, featuring and something just seems off, but the guys desperate for acceptance throw caution to the wind, when chosen to rush for the Greek social elite house. They meet college students Maxwell (Aaron Dalla Villa), Ricky (Cameron Cowperthwaite), and Bret (Jesse Pimentel (All About Evil )) to pledge for their super secretive organization, yeah, nod to The Skulls (2000). Our three outsiders joined by two others Ben (Joe Gallagher) and Sam (Jean-Louis Droulers), no shock to the audience that sacrifice equals suffering how far does one go to achieve acceptance. They face multiple tests, far past the wooden paddling found in Animal House (1978), this stuff ranks close to torture porn, sadistic measures used to attempt to disgust the viewers.
Robbins delivers proper direction and cinematography, aided by William Babcock (Paranormal Asylum )) and the cast does a fine job of staying their proper believable characters, however a few standouts first Villa supplies the right amount con-man game ship for his role, while suppressing his vile demeanor through sickening humor for more pain from those wanting to pledge. Cowperthwaite, uses his element of empathy and yet quickly flips the switch to a devilish prick, and Weiner does a fine performance of excessive babbling quickly and presenting himself in a series of disarming mannerisms. Lastly, a solid score from composer Jon Natchez (Boo! )), something that often finds itself overlooked on lower end productions, but not this time it works very well especially when the film comes to the twist.
First, Pledge doesn’t break any new ground, and slightly borrows from other movies, not in the genre of horror, a bit refreshing, but uses elements to make for some disturbing scenes that might bother some viewers. Secondly, it focuses on social dynamics namely acceptance, if one belongs to something then to many comes respect, love, even admiration and often enough shown in the movie is the questioning of masculinity, herein weaponized as tool to harm both physically and mentally. The flick slides away from some common clichés such as sexualized role of women in a submissive for the most part, using the male lust to weaken oneself into their own submission for domineering acceptance in college life.
Few get in. None get out.
IMDb Ratting: 5.5/10
Baron’s Rating: 5.0/10