Pledge review: Hazing moves up a level in the latest college-set horror story.
Pledge review by Kat Hughes.
A group of college friends, David (Zack Weiner – who also writes), Justin (Zachery Byrd) and Ethan (Phillip Andre Botello), dream of joining a fraternity. The idea of brothers for life, not to mention the non-stop partying, feels like the only way to get the true college experience. They set out to achieve their plan by attempting to rush at all fraternities on campus. The problem though is that, whilst they may believe themselves fraternity material, the frats have other ideas. David is rather obnoxious and looks like your stereotypical geek, Justin is overweight, and Ethan is shy and bookish, and so the trio are forever overlooked. Their luck appears to change however, after a beautiful girl invites them to a party off-campus at an exclusive and very secretive fraternity. The boys have a ball and are delighted when they are invited back to rush the house. This elation is short-lived however, as they soon realise that this place takes hazing very seriously, so seriously in fact that they might not make it out with their lives.
Pledge follows the formula of a film like Hostel; a group of guys are lead to their potential death by a beautiful woman, but Pledge has a little more to offer than just torture-porn. For one, it happens in a relatively real-world environment. We’ve all heard whispers and rumours about the weird and dangerous stuff that fraternities and sororities make their pledges do in order to potentially join their elite ranks. Films have explored the situation from the dramatic angle, most recently in films such as Goat (it’s on Netflix, give it a watch), but few if any, have tackled it through the horror genre. It seems silly really as the idea lends itself perfectly to this setting.
Telling the story via the horror genre means that Pledge is one very violent movie. The pledge’s are most definitely put through their paces, and there are plenty of gore-induced hide-behind-the-cushion moments. Our team are branded, made to eat God only knows what, and there’s an incident involving a rat that will have your stomach-curling. It’s not gore for gore’s sake as in the aforementioned Hostel, but you may need a strong constitution to last the duration.
Putting the group through these awful trials are a host of rather sophisticated brutes. They come across as an extension of members of The Riot Club, believing themselves privileged and therefore untouchable. This group taunt and torment our core trio in a manner that is reminiscent of a cat toying with its prey.
We’ve seen hazing plenty of times in film, but never quite like this. Pledge offers a fresh spin on the horrors of pledge life through this new genre angle. This film is a bloody and brutal burst of masculinity that packs a punch.
Pledge review by Kat Hughes, July 2018.
Pledge screened as part of the Fantasia International Film Festival 2018 line-up.