'Pledge' - Eli Roth should be proud [REVIEW]

Pledge

The question is, are we proud?

Eli Roth meets Rob Zombie meets 21 & Over meets that one James Franco fraternity movie called Goat that nobody bothered to see in the latest IFC Midnight release, Pledge.

From director Daniel Robbins, Pledge is a semi-serious, semi-spoof take on fraternities, pledging, rush-week and the dangers that all of that can entail.

Pledge begins with three freshman losers who want nothing more than to break into the party scene.

Well, David (Zack Weiner), the leader of the group, wants nothing more than that, at least. Justin (Zachery Byrd) and Ethan (Phillip Andre Botello) would both be perfectly content staying in the dorm rooms and playing video games, but David simply won’t have it.

Pledge
credit: YouTube

Rush-week is the ‘make it or break it’ time for college students, after all. You either find a fraternity that’ll accept you, or you accept the fact that you’re going to be a virgin for the next four years — there can be no in-between (apparently).

Thing is, David, Justin and Ethan aren’t all that good at, you know, socializing. They arrive at party after party, only to find that they have little in common with the other party-goers and that they can’t talk to a girl to save their life.

Humiliated and exhausted, the boys are about to call it quits when, out of the blue, they manage to attract the attention of a beautiful woman named Rachel (Erica Boozer).

To everyone’s surprise, it’s Rachel who actually picks the boys out of a crowd and runs over to them. They all get to talking and, soon enough, Rachel invites them to this exclusive party later on tonight.

Pledge
credit: YouTube

Never mind that they won’t know anyone else there and that the party is happening in the literal middle of nowhere — they might finally be in.

Those hopes are all but confirmed upon their arrival, too, as the three freshmen are warmly greeted by three seniors — Max (Aaron Dalla Villa), Ricky (Cameron Cowperthwaite) and Bret (Jesse Pimentel) — who welcome them in to their home that’s already full to the brim of alcohol, drugs and women.

Given that it winds up being the best night of David, Justin and Ethan’s lives, none of them hesitate for a second when they’re asked if they want to pledge to become part of this fraternity the following morning.

So, they, along with two other freshmen named Ben (Joe Gallagher) and Sam (Jean-Louis Droulers), return the following night, expecting to be forced into doing a bunch of dumb pranks involving more alcohol and nudity.

Pledge
credit: YouTube

That isn’t what Max, Ricky and Bret have in mind, though. No, they’re thinking something much more….sadistic.

The “harmless jokes” really turn out to be 48 hours of torture, pain and murder for the five boys. They can’t just up and leave, either — they’re trapped in this house and will have to endure whatever their superiors put them through.

Pledge has a fine premise for a horror movie from the get-go. We’ve seen a bunch of really serious dramas and documentaries try to take on the topic of fraternities and pledging, but we haven’t, to my recollection, seen many horror movies deal with these hostile environments (apart from something like Raw, perhaps).

The problem, though, is that Robbins can’t decide exactly how to present that idea.

Pledge
credit: YouTube

At times, Pledge is a rather intense and unsettling film that is seemingly trying to make some kind of point or socially commentary. Sometimes, it’s an over-the-top comedy film with some horror thrown in there for good measure (down to the point where they rip one scene straight out of 2Fast2Furious). And then, other times, it becomes this exploitative, gross movie that isn’t really fun or relevant for anybody.

All of that to say is that the tone is really all over the place in Pledge. When they actually pick one of those tones and stick with it for a while, the movie can actually be enjoyable — I actually really enjoyed the last ten minutes or so when they finally committed to the goofiness behind the whole thing. Getting to that point, though, takes a while and brings about a whole range of emotions (sometimes disgust with the movie itself, even) before we get there.

The characters might be part of that problem, too.

To be clear, I think there are some good performances to be found in Pledge. Aaron Dalla Villa plays a rather spirited role that was a lot of fun to watch, Zachery Byrd had a likable presence and, although I was annoyed with his character for a large part of the film, Zack Weiner still had a few lines that made me laugh.

Pledge
credit: YouTube

Thing is, much like the overall tone, every character thinks they’re in a different movie. Villa and Weiner play their performances for laughs, but Byrd, Botello and Gallagher are taking all of this rather seriously. Pimentel, meanwhile, is on a whole other level as he’s committed to playing a deranged serial killer type that sticks out like a sore thumb.

That’s not even to mention that the entire first act of Pledge still feels like yet another thing entirely, as you’d be forgiven for thinking you walked into Revenge of the Nerds by mistake (even though this movie really doesn’t know what being “nerdy” means and is just playing on common, outdated stereotypes).

That all just points back to Pledge trying to be far too many things inside its 77-minute runtime. While I appreciate what they’re going for a good deal of the time, Robbins just can’t stick the landing on a few too many moments.

Watch the trailer for Pledge here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought about the film!

'Pledge' - Eli Roth should be proud [REVIEW]
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Brandon Schreur

The fella over there with the hella good hair. Movies and TV are my jam, and the fact that I get to write about them on a regular basis is the bees knees.

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