Six college best friends throw their own private graduation party that goes terribly wrong when an uninvited guest arrives. Five years later, the girls gather once again and endure a night of far more horror and bloodshed.
From its 1990s poster artwork to the hackneyed plot, The 6th Friend resembles every Scream wannabe that came out 20 years ago, from I Know What You Did Last Summer to even shoddier fare like Urban Legend and Valentine. Even Dominique Swain, the “Lolita” of the 1990s, plays one of the six friends. Those films happened to be execrable in the first place, lacking any semblance of originality—but at least they were products of their time, denim/crop-top extravaganzas of cheap shock scares and hot dudes and babes getting stabbed in (increasingly poorly) inventive ways. Letitia Clouston’s horror flick manages the feat of being a pale imitation of these films.
Within the first three minutes of the film, which takes place at a party full of girls, there is an acid-trip sequence, seen through the eyes of protagonist Joey (a morose Jamie Bernadette, also the movie’s co-writer). The party’s one guy, Tyler (David Villada) gets murdered, mostly in flashback. Five years later, Joey’s friend Mel (Chantelle Albers) “kidnaps” Joey for a “minor intervention” in a cabin deep in the woods, forcing her to reunite with the girls from “that night.” They toast to “not killing anyone this time.”
“… Mel ‘kidnaps’ Joey for a ‘minor intervention’ in a cabin deep in the woods…”
After a copious amount of drinking, sex talk, and giggling (I love one particular shot of a weed pipe, a bottle of liquor and… pretzels, sprawled on the table – now that’s a badass party, folks), they corner Joey and make her feelings about “that night” pour out. If you’ve seen a horror film, you may guess what happens next: an unmemorable Michael Myers-like masked killer appears, offing the ladies one by one, until [insert number here] survives. Some of the kills are shot as if the cinematographer were on hallucinogens, the flashy editing butchering any tension and momentum those scenes may have built up.
The pseudo-feminist vibe (a treatise on the usage of the word “b*****s” here, a reference to how women make up 2% of the government there) would be commendable if it weren’t so forcefully tacked-on. The dialogue leaves much to be desired. “You wanna get paid to get knocked over by big balls” doesn’t even come close to being the worst line in the film; that honor may go to “I’m going to assume I’m going to pick up a knife and jam it up his dick-hole.” But let’s face it, it’s not like there are great actors delivering the lines. The cast barely skirts by; I don’t see any of those girls doing Shakespeare in the Park anytime soon. In its favor, the film is competently edited, and the low production values aren’t too apparent – thankfully, it’s at least decently assembled.
“…it’s just not frightening.”
The 6th Friend’s cardinal sin is that it’s just not frightening. Nothing even remotely resembling dread or even the good ol’ shock scare—or intelligence, for that matter—happens for an entire 30 minutes. Feel free to fast-forward. Or, like, not watch this at all, as the proceeding 50 minutes don’t fare much better. To the current desensitized eye, it’ll take much more than an unintentionally hilarious hanging scene—or death-by-frying-pan-in-the-face, for that matter—to get the blood pumpin’. The twist “reveal” is so obviously ripped off Scream it transcends plagiarism—and then there is that final confrontation that is lunk-headed on about every conceivable level.
While I live by the motto that entertainment should strive to elevate instead of pander, there are few exceptions. Not all horror films must elevate—I enjoyed the hell out of Grindhouse, a throwback to exploitation horror films of yore, but it was purposefully stupid, intelligently so. Made by two master filmmakers—Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino—whose roots lie in indie film and have clear artistic visions, senses of humor and a passionate love of film (QT’s Death-Proof portion of Grindhouse had similarly feminist motifs to The 6th Friend, yet oh-so-much-more-on-point). Sadly, it seems like Letitia Clouston is stuck in a slightly later period than the one the two directors were paying homage to – and she’s still got a long way to go.
The 6th Friend (2016) Written and directed by Letitia Clouston. Starring Jamie Bernadette, Chantelle Albers, Dominique Swain, Jessica Morris, Tania Nolan, Monique Rosario, David Villada.
4 out of 10