Cast: Zachery Byrd, Phillip Andre Botello, Zack Weiner, Aaron Dalla Villa
Director: Daniel Robbins
Very rarely do I walk away from a movie impressed at just how disturbed and disgusted I was by the subject matter and imagery, but Pledge is the type of movie that will stay with you long after you finish watching it. At multiple points in the movie, I didn’t think I’d be able to make it through considering how graphic and authentic the movie gets, but if you can get through it, you’ll enjoy what you see. Even though the budget is small, the thrills are large with Pledge, as it proves to be one of the hidden gems to be released in early 2019.
The film follows three college friends, Justin (Byrd), Ethan (Botello), and David (Weiner), as they try to navigate rush week and find a fraternity that will take them in. After countless failures, they are invited to a house party of a secret society and they hit it off with the men and are invited to pledge. What they don’t realize is that this secret society isn’t like any of the other fraternities and the three friends are in way over their heads. As each hour in the house passes, the three must fight with everything they have not just to get through the pledging process, but to survive. The most notable aspect of this movie is just how terrifying many of the pledging scenes are. Our protagonists have to go through excruciating physical and mental torture during the film, and it becomes very tough to watch at times. Most mainstream films will hold back during these scenes to strive for a PG-13 rating and potentially make more money, but this movie earns its R-rating and makes you squirm for almost every minute of the runtime. Speaking of the runtime, this movie is a mere 77 minutes long, which means these horrific scenes happen in quick succession making them that much more impactful. This movie is an absolute sprint right from the start and doesn’t slow down one bit as it successfully gets it point across. The only drawback about having a film with this quick of a runtime is that the characters never become fully developed. We understand their initial intentions and why they ended up in this situation, but we never learn anything about them outside of their introduction. I believe this was intentional as to focus more on the torture and gore of their situation, but it would’ve been nice to establish more of an emotional connection with the characters and learn more about them. The ending kind of does a solid job of establishing the world that these protagonists have been living in, but by that point most of the audience will already be grossed out or too shocked to comprehend what is going on. Maybe the scariest thing about this whole movie is the fact that these events could absolutely happen in the real world and we would be none the wiser. This isn’t the type of horror movie with supernatural or unreal elements to move it along, Pledge depicts humanity at its worst and what power, greed, and the need for acceptance can do and the damage they can cause. The fact that this movie is somewhat grounded in reality leaves a haunting reminder of the world around and just what can happen with just a little bit of influence.
Overall, Pledge is a drag race of terror from start to finish, and fans of low-budget horror movies will love every second of it. This movie makes the most of every opportunity it is given and should be used as a reference for any future independent film director. I don’t get surprised from these types of movies very often, but when I do, it’s always an absolute delight. Pledge captures all of the right tones and knows exactly how to keep the audience in a state of shock that lasts much longer than the film itself.
Overall Score: 8/10