M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Four of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2013 and going through September 30, 2014. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t!

How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st, 2013 and September 30, 2014 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number—31. Again, I never call myself any kind of expert in horror. I simply watch a lot of horror films and love writing about them. Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!

Released on January 14, 2014. Available on digital download, On Demand, and DVD/Blu-ray!

PLUS ONE (2014)

aka +1
Directed by Dennis Iliadis
Written by Bill Gullo (screenplay), Dennis Iliadis (story)
Starring Rhys Wakefield, Logan Miller, Ashley Hinshaw, Natalie Hall, Rohan Kymal, dam David Thompson, Ronald Ogden, Bernard D. Jones, Brad Mills, April Billingsley, Peter Luis Zimmerman, Josh Warren, Chelsea Hayes, Joey Nappo, Marla Malcolm
Find out more about this film on Facebook here

Though time travel stories are probably one of my least favorite sub-genres, I am all for new ideas and PLUS ONE full of them. I guess what it takes for a good time travel film is a firm handle on what’s going on. It’s got to be grounded for me. If a storyteller is able to look at the layout with all of the various moving pieces of a time travel story and is able to maintain a constant thread throughout without losing the audience, that’s going to be a successful film. That’s the type of time travel film I like. Like PREDESTINATION, TIME CRIMES, THE INCIDENT, and films like that. The problem is, keeping watch over this ever-changing, ever-evolving chessboard is about as difficult as it comes, so it’s a rare film indeed that is successfully coherent.

Director Dennis Iliadis, who directed the remake of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, seems to be one of those storytellers as he shows some deft plotting skill in his latest film PLUS ONE. For the entire duration, I was waiting for things to skid off the rails and have the story betray its own rules in accordance with the time travel trickery that’s going on. But though I looked for it shrewdly, I couldn’t really find a single misstep as he tells a story of a party that echoes back on itself every twenty minutes into the past when a mysterious comet crashes near the happenings. As time passes, the two realities begin to converge and the closer they get to one another, eventually moving towards the question; “What happens when two realities try to occupy the same space?” The answer is fun and full of surprises.

The constants in this film are four fascinating characters, all of whom are privy that their past doppelgangers are close to their heels. Rhys Wakefield plays David, a slacker whose foot seems to take permanent residence in his mouth, especially around his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend Jill (Ashley Hinshaw), who catches him kissing another girl he mistook for Jill. David’s snarky friend Teddy (Logan Miller) tries to tell David that he should see this as a blessing and he should take advantage of his newfound bachelorhood to live life day by day as he does. As everyone descends on the Party of the Century bringing those who went off to college together again with those who stayed in town, David wants to confront Jill and convince her that they were meant together.

It sounds like the million other teen party comedy movies like CAN’T HARDLY WAIT, SIXTEEN CANDLES, and their ilk, doesn’t it? Yes, it’s exactly like those films, and that’s what makes PLUS ONE all the more interesting: it is a successful teen party movie even before things get all sci fi-like. There are the obligatory scenes of douche-baggery and binge drinking. Lots of dancing and moments that will either scar or cause smiles for lifetimes ahead. This is definitely a party worth remembering, and Iliadis does a great job of making it so, interspersing little moments that you know will be touchstones when things double up on themselves like a girl puking or someone tossing ice on someone or someone passed out on a sofa. And though these moments are obviously placed there for us to remember later in the film to happen again, it’s all done naturally.

When things do get fantastical and the double us-es show up, we already have a firm hold on the world established. It’s a world those who remember those party years will be familiar with, and relying on this familiarity, Iliadis goes into some interesting places by interspersing subplots for us to cling to so as we don’t get lost in the all of the time paradoxes.

One of my favorites was Teddy’s story as he is having the night of his life, hooking up with Melanie, his dream girl (played by the scrumptious Natalie Hall), who never used to pay any attention to him in high school. When the time paradox occurs and Teddy and Natalie’s 20 minutes into the past doppelgangers show up to cock block his big night, past Teddy is pissed. When present and past collide, it immediately changes both groups making them a paranoid, panicking mob and thinking their other selves are some kind of pod people replacements, when in fact they are just as misplaced in time as the other group. As the minutes between the two groups lessen, the eventual collision when both groups must take up the same space looms. The results are absolutely insane.

I know my wordy explanation of the film will not do it justice, so put plainly, this film has great performances by the youthful cast, a fantastic concept that doesn’t lose steam, and a pitch black and brutal ending that basically gives the finger to both optimists who want a love story to end well and a pessimist who can’t stand those sappy endings so prominent in those John Hughes movies we ate up when we were kids. PLUS ONE is one of the best time-twisting trips you are bound to take in recent memory due to the director’s firm hold on the concept and how far he’s willing to let it unravel without losing the viewer.

THE 2013-2014 COUNTDOWN!

#16 – PLUS ONE

M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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