ALL MY FRIENDS HATE ME is a murderously funny horror-comedy where the real body count consists of the character’s relationships, friendships and, possibly, their souls. It explores those kinds of friendships that are based on roasting your comrades but the roasting, in this case, centers on one person and is unrelenting. Nothing about this teasing or joking is good-natured and most of it isn’t funny. I can’t say that I blame the main character for being paranoid that people are out to get him. Because, honestly, I think they are. The film has a red scare title that is a lot like the one in The Cabin In The Woods, but it still made me guffaw from the context of its usage.
This British film stars Tom Stourton (About Time, The Spy Who Dumped Me) as Pete, Charley Clive (“Pure”) as Sonia, Georgina Campbell (Wildcat, “Black Mirror”) as Fig, Graham Dickson (Down From London, “Borderline”) as Archie, Joshua McGuire (Lovesick, “Misfits”) as George, Antonia Clarke (Les Misérables, The Thirteenth Tale) as Claire and Dustin Demri-Burns (“Cardinal Burns”, “Peaky Blinders”) as Harry. The film is directed by Andrew Gaynord (Stath Lets Flats, The Characters) and co-written by Tom Stourton, who plays Pete and Tom Palmer, an actor (Eastenders, Man of the Hour) and writer (Pigeons, Man of the Hour).
The setup is very simple. Pete, a somewhat anxious 31-year-old man, has been invited to his “posh” friend’s estate in the countryside to celebrate his birthday with the rest of his college friend group. He’s excited because he hasn’t seen his friends in quite some time but there are some nasty surprises in store for Pete once he arrives. Even though the reason for this reunion is supposedly a celebration of his birthday and he’s supposed to be the guest of honor, he ends up being the butt of every cruel joke and an escalating series of disturbing events makes Pete more and more paranoid that things are not what they seem.
The film’s story takes the frequent television situation comedy set up of misunderstandings that grow larger and larger for comic effect to extremely uncomfortable extremes. If you are a fan of cringe comedy shows like “Peep Show”, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, or “Nathan For You”, I think ALL MY FRIENDS HATE ME might be your cup of poison tea. The film examines the group dynamic of friends who possibly never really liked each other and people who are friends mostly out of obligation.
The film’s performances are quite good. Watching Pete look hopefully at his friends and then be crushed yet again is work that is performed to perfection by Tom Stourton. He just looks like such an eager puppy and to watch his friends scare him over and over again is upsetting and funny. It wouldn’t work unless Storton makes you believe that poor Pete could fall for it again, just like Charlie Brown running up to that football once again. Antonia Clarke as Claire has just the right amount of sadness for the role of the woman who is tragically in love and depressed.
Georgina Campbell never lets her eminently cheerful, yet totally cold Fig give Pete even the slightest bit of sympathy. Joshua McGuire’s ire is more subtly masked with a slight niceness that opens Pete up to making unwise admissions. Archie is a drug-addled self-confessed toff who is the most aggressive of all but still goes to Pete for sympathy. Dustin Demri-Burns is the perpetually cheery dickhead who the group seemingly adopts and who gives Pete the creeps. Christopher Fairbank (Guardians of The Galaxy, The Fifth Element) as Norman is perfect as this film’s harbinger. The older man with the scary face and stoic attitude that heralds the coming of horror.
As for the horror, it is mostly the horror of finding out that your friends might not actually like you and that you are stuck out in the middle of nowhere with them wondering what they might actually be planning. Horror seems to always be peeping around the corner, but in this film, it’s more along the lines of Ready Or Not, but with less gore and wedding gowns. I will say that there is one good ax chase and I will refuse to tell you what the outcome is. ALL MY FRIENDS HATE ME is much more on the comedy side of the spectrum, but the overtones of dread push it towards horror-comedy in my book.
One thing that I realized while watching is that when people “joke” around with you like this, it’s not just because they don’t like you. It’s also because they really want to either punish you or make you go away, but they are too chicken to actually say the words to your face. It’s really a passive-aggressive tactic. They think maybe if we humiliate this person enough times, they will finally go away. It’s the tactic of cowards and bullies who use it against the vulnerable. The worst thing that you can say about Pete is that he is easily led and forgetful. He’s not really a villain, but his friends have cast him as one and he is the target of their personal frustrations and rage. Sometimes friend groups do that. They gang up on someone who is the most willing to please and who lets slights go. The cause might be different for each of the different people in the group. Is it a plot? You’ll have to watch to find out.
The kicker of the film is a really good one and from the psychological standpoint actually makes sense.
The music is by Will Lowes and Joe Robbins and is effective in conjuring moments of unease. Ben Moulden (Division 19) handles the cinematography and gives us overcast English skies and interiors lit with a warm orange glow.
I think that ALL MY FRIENDS HATE ME is the film equivalent of the meme “Maybe The Real Treasure Was the Friends We Made Along the Way.” Drenched in nastiness and pettiness, laced with irony, and with a final image that shows how often we don’t really learn from bad experiences, ALL MY FRIENDS HATE ME is a tense and uncomfortable non-supernatural horror that focuses on the casual evil of everyday human beings. Now that I think about it, if you loved “Peep Show”, you’ll probably love this film too.
ALL MY FRIENDS HATE ME is currently in theaters and will be available on Digital tomorrow, March 25, 2022.
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