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By midlandsmovies, Jan 21 2019 03:08PM



Pledge (2019) Dir. Daniel Robbins


This 2019 horror satire has three friends, the rotund Justin (Zachery Byrd), geeky Ethan (Phillip Andre Botello) and the Woody Allen-alike David (Zach Weiner) attempt to join a fraternity in their first few weeks at college. The trio of socially awkward nerds try their best to join a number of party-centric houses but with little success before being invited to a get together where their wildest dreams come true – booze, birds and “bro” respect.


However, as these things play out they are asked to return to this mansion in the woods and pledge their allegiance during a hazing ceremony the following night. Hazing usually consists of a few embarrassing initiation trials to show your commitment to the club. Yet a much more sadistic version of this higher education rite of passage is forced upon them before they quickly realise they are facing potentially deadly consequences.


The film has a solid cast – the lead trio are believable as the studious losers – and Aaron Dalla Villa as one of the heads of the well-dressed frat house is as cocky and arrogant as needed – especially when shouting “Are you ready to be Kings of the campus?” at his potential new ‘recruits’. The film begins well with hints upon the darkness coming up and some neat character-driven conversations showing how desperate the boys are to be popular.


Unfortunately, the excellent candle-lit cinematography – which is one of many religious-infused images seen throughout – is almost entirely undone by characters that make such silly decisions and therefore Pledge begins to fail as soon as the situation takes a turn for the worse.


The three guys are portrayed as wimps – fine, but as pupils at a university was it intentional to have them make such dumb choices? As their trials get more violent and dangerous, their attempts to escape, if you can call them that, are straight out of the Scooby-Doo school of thought. Doors are open at random, the group splits up and they repeat the same actions with the expectation of a different outcome. With the boys up against the brutal jocks, the film could have portrayed a contrast between the power of the mind versus the strength of athleticism but fails to find appropriate fodder in the themes it (superficially) broaches.


Much like the boys, an audience will be tested mentally and emotionally to stick with them and as the characters’ opportunities to escape slipped away so did my interest. With Green Room (2015) showing clever youngsters caught in a building trying their clever best in an attempt to escape, there’s no excuse for having characters not making believable decisions. With a hint of the gruesome testing games of Would You Rather (2012) the film attempts to metaphorically explore the struggles of supremacy in American institutions but fails its initiation test owing to a thin plot and thick characters.


★★ ½ Stars


Michael Sales

By midlandsmovies, Mar 20 2016 12:19PM

Midlands Movies speaks to one half of Roasted Studios, Marc Hamill whose new feature film The Wrong Floor is about to be released in 2016 and his reaction to a recent screening of his movie at new regional film festival.


Indie-Lincs is a new festival in Lincolnshire which covers both local and international filmmakers and champions low and micro-budget films.


Taking place over the weekend of March 11th and 12th the festival organisers were not looking for sequels, remakes or adaptations but focused on the best original work from around the globe. In addition, they hoped the filmmakers and the audience could network successfully with each other and the independent filmmaking community.


With a programme of dynamic, inventive and challenging fiction as well as documentary and animated films, Indie-Fest is proud that it embodies the low budget filmmaking ethic.


One filmmaker who made the most of the opportunity was Marc Hamill. His production company Roasted Studios have recently completed their first grindhouse feature film called The Wrong Floor. Screening on the Saturday Marc was not only there to promote his film but enjoy the festival with the other attendees.


“Although I was primarily in attendance for the screening of The Wrong Floor, I couldn’t help but be seduced by the indie film offerings at this year’s festival”, says Marc. “From controversial social commentaries, to grindhouse carnage, a whole spectrum of hidden gems were given a stage to shine”.


Marc was also impressed by the level of talent at the festival. “The quality of the film making on display was certainly impressive, especially given that the festival focuses on micro-budget films. There was literally something for everyone. The highlight of the festival for me, being a filmmaker, was the workshop on making a short film for festivals. It was basically a cheaters guide to win awards at major festivals”.


Marc adds with a smile - “Filmmakers Phil Stevens and Domonique Webb explained their winning formula and demonstrated how to execute the perfect production to exploit the system. They expressed their ultimate disappointment at the success of their winning formula and it really felt that by sharing their knowledge, they were somehow cleansing their souls. You may be wondering what this winning formula may be, I will summarise quite severely: Make a social commentary film under 10 minutes with desaturated colours using handheld camera with excellent sound quality. That’s pretty much the long and short of it”.


Based at Lincoln Performing Arts Centre, and run in partnership with The School of Film and Media at the University of Lincoln, the festival films also competed for prizes in several categories. The prizes take the form of an 'Imp' which is the emblem for Lincoln city and resides high up on a stone pillar in the city's magnificent gothic Cathedral.


The mischievous Imp was thought by the organisers as the perfect embodiment of the independent filmmaker's spirit, someone who dares to upset the equilibrium and do things their own way


Marc was impressed by the festival though and got a great reception for his own film too. “The whole atmosphere at the festival was upbeat and inspiring. The indie-lincs team did a fantastic job and made everyone feel welcome. It was a unique festival which I would highly recommend to film makers and film lovers alike”.


Find out more about Roasted Studios at this link here: http://thewrongfloor.com/


Indie-Lincs information is on their website at: http://www.indie-lincs.com/


The Hamill brothers at Indie-Lincs
The Hamill brothers at Indie-Lincs
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