REVIEW: +1 [2013]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 95 minutes | Release Date: September 20th, 2013 (USA)
Studio: IFC Midnight
Director(s): Dennis Iliadis
Writer(s): Bill Gullo / Dennis Iliadis (story)

“I don’t want to stand still anymore”

It’s about time someone finally decided to turn the formulaic “huge blow-out” party environment of Project X and 21 & Over on its head by creating something actually worth seeing. One can only watch so many examples of the same run-of-the-mill series of drunken binges and sexual encounters with a single “it” couple worth swooning over in the hopes their fateful kiss will make the chaos and carnage worth it before avoiding the sub-genre altogether. You’re allowed to have all those things, but please add a twist to set yours apart from the rest. For director Dennis Iliadis+1, this infusion of excitement comes from an intangible, extraterrestrial energy source brought to earth by a meteorite that crashes the party, inhabits the electrical current pulsing through the music and lights, and sets in motion a wild and unexplainable phenomenon.

I’m getting ahead of myself, though, by not discussing the actual plot (thought up by Iliadis and scribed by Bill Gullo) soon to be affected by the aforementioned wildcard. That would involve David (Rhys Wakefield) and the aftermath of a boneheaded mistake: kissing the girl his girlfriend Jill (Ashley Hinshaw) just lost to in a collegiate fencing match who could also be her twin. It’s an opening sequence that sets up where these two are coming from and where they’re going with her away at college and he still living at home with no intentions of leaving the sleepy existence he knows and feels safe within. Obviously growing apart regardless, this betrayal provides the last straw. Her coming home to attend ex-classmate Angad’s (Rohan Kymal) party, however, means David has one last shot to make amends.

This is when the supernatural/science fiction element enters the fray through a power outage wherein a double exposure effect introduces itself before breaking each character into two distinct physical beings. There is a catch: the overlap of their doppelgangers arrives out of sync. The “real” David and friends Teddy (Logan Miller) and Alison (performed by twins Suzanne and Colleen Dengel to help facilitate their interactions later on) watch as the partiers they witnessed going outside inexplicably reappear to do exactly what they did twenty minutes before. Being the only ones left in the house, they’re alone in possessing the knowledge of what transpired. It conjures fear in Teddy, a strange comfort in Alison, and the realization for David that he now has a third chance to apologize to Jill since his latest attempt went horribly wrong moments before.

Iliadis proceeds to have a lot of visual fun as we re-visit rooms and situations we’ve already seen with either the addition of a doubled character or the alteration of how what already happened happens again. We watch as one outlier confronts himself with a bullet to the head, another with abject fear mirrored back by her past self, and David with the brilliant idea to incapacitate his alternate to roam freely about the party in search of the two Jills. But just as he embraces this opportunity, Teddy finds himself contemplating what it means beyond himself. And as more blackouts occur to transport the copies ever closer in time, the thought of what their eventual convergence might mean hits. Will they simply absorb one another unchanged? Or will one overpower the other and take control?

The requisite insanity for one of these shindigs is included in the background of what becomes a violent study of identity and how far one will go to preserve it. Kymal’s Angad is the epitome of dork as he overcompensates for his lack of popularity by hiring strippers, ordering a living sushi platter (nyotaimori), and stringing up Home Depot’s entire stock of external Christmas lights; Teddy lucks his way into being the first guy to show his dream girl Melanie (Natalie Hall) attention and thus an invite for some fun upstairs; and the random extras engage in all sorts of shenanigans from flaming tennis ball volleys to keg stands to naked and wet dance party mayhem. Rather than make these aspects plot points, however, they become the comic relief from the steady descent towards a carnal need for survival.

Once the doubles grow closer together so that originals can interfere with the actions their others are unconsciously adhering to, a flight or fight mentality presents itself in a very bloody way. What was once laughter-infused fun and games finds itself taking a sharp turn towards homicidal rage as Teddy 1 rallies his brethren into hiding and Teddy 2 his own into removing what’s standing in their way of autonomy. And all the while David still only cares about his love for Jill and the hope he can string together the correct series of words to reconcile their differences. It’s a performance by Wakefield that transitions from empathetically lovelorn to creepily determined without remorse. You want to give him your sympathy, but he’d rather take advantage of her, himself, and the situation to steal what he wants.

+1 unfortunately finds itself inside a purgatory where audience appeal is concerned considering those desiring the sex and raucousness don’t want to bother thinking through the time travel doppelganger angle while those looking for intelligent sci-fi may be thrown by the immature co-ed romp it uses as its base. For me it works on both levels with equal success, engaging my desire for fun and need for original storytelling. It has a visual aesthetic that grabs you with its loud music, black light gyrations, and flickers of eerie double-exposure while the actors go all-in on its out-of-left-field gimmick. This is exactly how self-absorbed, insecure eighteen-year olds would act in the same situation as oafs lusting for hook-ups and the wise wondering why they attended must tackle the unknown reality before them. Angad definitely knows how to throw an unforgettable bash.

courtesy of IFC Films

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