The three leads are Justin (Zachery Byrd), Ethan (Phillip Andre Botello), and David (Zach Weiner), not your typical looking college hunks. They reminded me of a mix of Otter from Animal House meets the “Can you hear me now” Sprint guy. Rejection after rejection from fraternities, they talk of calling it a night, until a beautiful women scopes them out, and gives them the address to a party. Soon, they find themselves at a fancy mansion off campus, with beautiful women, flowing drinks, and male bonding. Of course, this isn't what it looks like, it's obvious that their being lured here, but their desperation places them in a position to be taken advantage of.
On the surface, Pledge has good intentions. In our world, where the idiotic bro-culture continues to be something which creates toxicity in our male youth, writer Zack Weiner knows he wants to send a message about how judgmental and poisonous the fraternity life can be. The entire hazing process alone has proved dangerous for college students, but director Daniel Robbins traps our characters like idiotic rats, and then he literally feeds our characters rats. Group leaders Max (Aaron Dalla Villa) and Ricky (Cameron Cowperthwaite) deal out these atrocious acts with madness in their eyes, but it leads to more questions about why they can get away with it? Why does nobody fight back? The answer is because the script says so. Multiple scenes feel manufactured and all the performances fail to feel authentic.
The third act of Pledge becomes a standoff between the frat leaders and the three victims, desperately trying to find a way out of the house. There is a bit of a Saw, Cheap Thrills, meets The Skulls vibe going on, but unfortunately it is after the initial idea where the narrative stops. At an hour and seventeen minutes, what Robbins wants to say was said in the first thirty, and this leads to a collection of performances that are one dimensional, or so over the top that they're forced. The lone highlight is from the pesky Aaron Dalla Villa, whose effort felt like he was channeling an inner Charlie Sheen-style, playing a raged up frat boy desperate to be liked.
When we get to the end of Pledge the twist is not strong enough and at that point I had lost all interest. It's a bit unfortunate too, especially because there is potential from the entire young cast and director Daniel Robbins. If you want to really see a movie about how disastrous the fraternity environment can be, might I suggest you revisit the Andrew Neel Sundance film Goat. That movie got the emotional tole fraternity life can take. Pledge just wants to beat you up and leaves us sore. Thank you sir, may I have another?
Written by: Leo Brady
STARRING: ZACHERY BYRD; PHILLIP ANDRE BOTELLO; ZACH WEINER; AARON DALLA VILLA
DIRECTED BY: DANIEL ROBBINS
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
It's frustrating that Pledge didn't work for me. It has a fresh energy and I can see it in the films style, especially since we are removed so recently from Jordan Peele's smash-hit Get Out, that young director Daniel Robbins is trying to capture that same kind of lightening in the bottle for his horror film. Thematically, Pledge is interesting enough, about a trio of college freshman, roaming the campus during rush week, desperate for a fraternity to welcome them into their bro-club. All that effort, only to have entered into a ritual that is more hunting than hazing. Robbins has a solid premise, but sadly fails to have enough to say. Pledge is a reminder that fraternities are stupid. Everything else is just repetition.