FRIEND OF THE WORLD is a film written, directed, and produced by Brian Patrick Butler and is distributed by Troma Entertainment. If you know anything about Troma films, then you might have a good understanding of what you are signing up for when you watch this film. Complete with low-budget body horror, FRIEND OF THE WORLD is a satirical look at what the apocalypse might be like and, if you believe this film, it’s likely something we will bring upon ourselves.
With a runtime of 50 minutes, this film doesn’t give much time to create a large story. So, it doesn’t. The primary focus of the film centers on Alexandra Slade who plays Diane Keaton (not the actress, just another person named Diane Keaton), and Nick Young who plays Gore, a former military man who probably developed some PTSD that has gone untreated. Together the two take up a majority of the screen time when Gore finds Diane and brings her to his bunker during the end times.
On a quick side tangent, let me just say how wonderful it is to watch something that isn’t the runtime of a saga-ending Avengers film. The best way to get me to watch a movie these days is to tell me that it has a short runtime. I’m not the only one like this either since Saturday Night Live ran a skit recently about the need for short movies. I’m not sure when we thought 2 hours and 30 minutes was a good average for a film, but I’d like to go back to a time when movies averaged less than 100 minutes.
Alright, back to Butler’s film. The story is broken into five different acts. The film lends itself to play out like a live stage production so, splitting it into “acts” made sense to me. Throughout each act, nothing is ever truly clear until the final few minutes of the last act. While the script holds back much of its information from the audience, I wouldn’t have minded a few more hints at where everything was going, especially in moments of pure weirdness and insanity. The hallucinations, body horror, and comedy don’t feel as in sync as they could be if there was a better understanding of where the film was headed. Big reveals can be really fun, but not to the detriment of losing your audience along the way, and I felt a bit lost in the middle acts of FRIEND OF THE WORLD.
Butler’s directing was rather good. He made interesting choices that added to the film. Choosing to make it black and white gave it a feel reminiscent of the World War II propaganda films that Gore alludes to early on. As a sidebar, the movie poster for this film adds to that feeling as well and I want to commend whoever designed it. Camera angles and close-ups emphasize the horror and hallucinogenic moments. The directing also felt like a nod to how old episodes of “The Twilight Zone” were made. There were times when I thought a camera could have been cut sooner or something could have not been shown due to low budgets. Overall, though, I enjoyed the low-budget production and how it accentuated the actors, aesthetic, and mood of the movie.
With very few actors involved in this project, there needed to be some stellar acting. Nick Young, in particular, delivered a nuanced take on Gore. I was consistently terrified of the man while also hoping he would protect and save our protagonist Diane. He could have easily been extremely hateable like a classic villain, but he constantly rode the line of being a hero himself. Subtle choices in the tone he used in talking to Diane or how he would teach her to use a gun made Gore an intriguing character, more so than Diane ever felt.
On the other end, Alexandra Slade’s Diane is continually a princess in peril. She doesn’t fully trust Gore but does need him. Even at her most heroic moments, I never fully bought Diane as someone who can save herself from trouble, but I wanted to believe in her. I’m not sure if that comes from Slade’s performance or from the script itself, but I would have really loved seeing her have a breakthrough moment that came earlier on in the film.
The biggest downfall of this film is its comedy. One chapter, in particular, feels like it takes a hard turn into comedic satire in ways that nearly crushed the rest of the movie. It felt very out of place, confusing, and unfunny. The problem with a 50-minute movie is that every minute counts in telling the overall story. An all killer, no filler mentality. Unfortunately, that chapter felt like mostly filler and distracted from the plot I was looking to further. On top of the unfunny comedic elements, the special effects within that segment (you’ll know exactly what it is when you watch) were so poorly done that it made this low-budget horror film feel like a bargain bin dollar store reject.
FRIEND OF THE WORLD has something interesting to say with some good back and forth dialogue and good directing. Unfortunately, the bad comedy and the every-now-and-then bad visual effects really bring it down. It’s a clever film that never feels clever enough for its own premise.
FRIEND OF THE WORLD is now available to watch on VOD.
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