“Pledge” answers the deep question all horror fans want to know: what would “Revenge of the Nerds” look like if it were made by Eli Roth.
I wasn’t a part of the Greek system in college, and I’ll be honest, I don’t really get it, especially the idea of volunteering to be humiliated by pledging and going through hazing. Maybe it was being bullied growing up, but the idea of choosing to subject myself to to hazing just seemed a definite no.
However, David (Zack Weiner, who also authored the script), Ethan (Phillip Andre Botello), and Justin (Zachery Bird) are three college freshman intent on changing their social status by joining a fraternity. Well, David is intent on joining and drags Ethan and Justin along — they would be just as content to stay in their dorm and play video games.
After a series of increasingly humiliating attempts to fit in at frat parties with Justin and Ethan ready to throw in the towel, they are approached by Rachel (Erica Boozer), a beautiful co-ed who invites them to a party. It takes a huge suspension of disbelief to believe that after everything they’ve been subjected to thus far, they think this is anything but a set-up.
But sure enough…off they go to the party which, of course, isn’t on Fraternity Row, but at a a remote mansion in the woods.
Here they meet their hosts, led by Max (Aaron Dalla Villa) and Ricky (Cameron Cowperthwaite). Max, Ricky and the rest of the “club” show the boys — along with a couple of other forgettable pledges — a good time and invite them back the next evening telling them they think they are club material.
This is where the movie moves from your standard college sex comedy to your standard college horror film, as the guys are subjected to tortuous rituals to test their resolve.
Ethan and Justin want to leave, but David insists it’s just hazing. But it’s not just hazing, and it soon becomes clear that our lovable protagonists are not so much pledges but victims.
While the film doesn’t reinvent the wheel, the casting and direction are solid. And the film does a great job making you care about the characters, getting you fully invested in their plight before the real nastiness begins. All of the actors (particularly Zachery Bird and Cameron Cowperthwaite) give nuanced performances that keep their characters from becoming stereotypes.
Director Daniel Robbins (Uncaged) shows an adept hand at pacing and lighting the movie. The movie only runs 79 minutes, which means there isn’t a lot of filler. The action moves along, and hides some of the plotholes.
The movie’s biggest problem is its treatment of its female characters. They are little more than scantily-clad eye candy, and they deserve better. Just when it looks like Erica Boozer is finally going to be given something to do, she disappears from the movie.
Ultimately, Pledge is a solid little dark comedy/horror movie with a nice twist that may have college freshmen rethinking rushing during Greek Week.