2021 | Unrated (R equivalent) | starring Julia Wieniawa, Mateusz Wieklawek | written & directed by Jan Belci | In Polish with English Subtitles |
In the Polish Holiday, single-location, anti-comedy All My Friends Are Dead all of the main characters are killed (or close to it) in the end. Not only does the title tell us this, but an extended opening, where two cops sleepily drone through the carnage of a house party gone deadly wrong, details every characters’ fate. Then we flashback a day earlier, get introductions to our characters and just wait until these two ends meet. If the quirky tone and holiday horror appearance looks like there might be a creative reason behind the flashforward opening or that this movie had an inventive twist up it’s sleeve, spoilers – it does not. Better Watch Out it certainly is not.
Better Watch Out is not a bad comparison here. Also a holiday-theme, single-location horror/comedy known (by the 9 people who saw it) for reveling in cruelty, Better however was smart, fun, creepy, inventive and had a story that went somewhere. Here writer/director Jan Belci’s pastiche of teen party tropes (think a sexed-up, heartless Can’t Hardly Wait), witless Final Destination deaths and the Darkest Timeline episode of Community, has cruelty flowing through it’s veins. Tone-deaf without characters to either root for their survival or relish their impending demise, everyone is just a generally unpleasant cardboard cutout that dislikes everyone else.
The party, thrown by Marek with his parents away, has characters like an innocent young couple, a recovering drug addict photographer, a wannabe rapper and his astro-hippie girlfriend, a young man with his MILF girlfriend, two apparent hookers, a ladies man, a Mormon and two guys described as the Jay and Silent Bob comic relief duo (the movie is full of name checks to other films). Hook-ups happen, secrets revealed, a gun is introduced and soon chaos has broken out. It’s all tacky stuff. A Roger Ebert Dead Teenager movie without the slasher where the punchline is that teenagers are dead.
The movie isn’t a mess and it doesn’t fall apart. Everything in it is deliberate, it is a deathtrap construction of set-ups and payoffs. In this case that’s all it is, nakedly open set-ups for obvious payoffs without a story to hide them in. Imagine The Sixth Sense without a B story and where every other bit of dialog was a pun (Bruce Willis saying “I feel dead tired today”) that pointed in a neon sign where every paper thin arc was going. There is no point to any of it and it’s painfully unfunny. Best example, in the opening we learn that a pizza delivery boy hangs himself in the house. How will the movie subvert our expectations to comically and ironically drop dominoes to make it look like he hung himself? It doesn’t. The poor guy shows up gets treated like trash by everyone, is told to kill himself by everyone and then does. There’s your arc. Hilarious…
I hated every second of All My Friends Are Dead. It’s like listening to the class clown awkwardly fumble around his first idea of a Black Comedy set to on the nose (American?) music. That it has some level of technical competence makes it tackier. Julia Wieniawa stands out as Anastaza, the frustrated girlfriend driven by a astrology to cheat on her boyfriend. She’s not exactly likable but she has a character. Wieniawa was also the standout of the far superior Polish cannibal film Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight and with that we’ve stumbled on a trend. A gory, horror movie cultural revival. The results have been spotty at best from the fun of Woods to this trash, but it’s interesting to follow. Something is in the water in Poland.