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By Brian Bertoldo | October 18, 1999

The Decade tears down the veil of secrecy surrounding fraternity hazing. Labeled a true story, a group of fraternity pledges are run through a gauntlet of abuse from which one suffers seemingly permanent psychological damage and another is nearly killed.
What price are you willing to pay for life long brotherhood? To be surrounded by beer and women for 3 years and after have connections to cushy corporate jobs. Well, in order to reap these rewards at the Sigma Nu frat you must go through something called Hell Decade. Not merely a hell week as with other houses, but 7 days of sacrifice and abuse that feels like an entire decade. The story of one such class of pledges is told through an investigator’s conversation with one of the house’s graduates, Knute (Kirk Fisher) ten years later. The ritualistic initiation process was lead by McCart (Dave Mokus), a brother who must have gone through a grueling decade himself as he pushes his pledges to the breaking point. The pledges are not allowed to speak to anyone outside the house, even when out at class, they’re not to sleep and must crawl through doorways. That’s the easy stuff; each is given names of well known personalities whose character they must be in at all times. Throw in the prerequisite verbal abuse, push-ups and contests pushing ice blocks at a rink and you’ve got the general idea. Things take a serious turn for the worst when two of the pledges, Stein AKA Ted Bundy (Scott Boyer) and Devries AKA Animal Keeper (Larry Schecter) run into trouble. Bundy actually gets a little too involved in his character. Through the days of little or no sleep and the constant harassment, he looses his grip on reality, eventually lunging at a frat brother with a knife. Animal Keeper is found bound and gagged in a refrigerator of the house and after it is revealed he is gay, the house struggles to keep the incident an internal affair. Eventually all the pledges are accepted into the house with the Devries/Animal Keeper matter never fully resolved. Keeping it in the house is the primary theme of the film. No matter how tragic the circumstance, the survival of the fraternity comes first. The conversation with Knute, shot with black and white video, ten years later is a bit confusing though. Why, ten years later are these events brought up? This is never fully explained.
Portulese, a former member of Sigma Nu himself, has put together a revealing and compelling film about the cult of pain and pleasure in fraternity life. As the pledge’s decade unfolds, there’s a voyeuristic quality to watching their plight. You actually begin to feel like a first hand witness, watching as Stein/Bundy sinks into madness and the ever present McCart takes on the role of an avenging drill sergeant. With a score featuring Pink Floyd, REM and Depeche Mode, to name a few, The Decade delivers

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