Pledge, A Familiar Horror Plot, Yet Compelling Commentary
Pledge Film Details
Director: Daniel Robbins
Writer: Zack Weiner
Release Date: 11 January 2019 (USA)
IFC Midnight Cinema
MPAA Rating: N/A
Genre: Horror, Thriller
A group of college freshmen pledge an exclusive fraternity but soon realize there’s more at stake than they could have ever imagined.
One story narrative element all film genres share to some extent is the commentary of acceptance in a privileged social class. Whether this commentary is set against the backdrop of the 1800s or a modern setting within a high school the context remains the same.
On the surface, it is clear Pledge Writer Zack Weiner takes cliché characters to plan a story structure. Yet, the underlying message behind these characters is the thread of acceptance. In today’s advanced society people are engaged with their social media platforms. The end goal for many is about acceptance of others, of what the culture deems cool. Metrics are in place to highlight our acceptance be it through “likes” or “followers”.
While Pledge does not venture in a technology-themed narrative, the principals of moral and ethic issues are portrayed. The consequences of trying to attain a status achievement among peers or social class lurk under the surface of the rich caucasian cool crew versus non-popular geeks.
Related Article Aaron Dalla Villa Exclusive Interview
Pledge presents a standard approach to its storyline and characters. The downfall for this film is the basic plot formula. While the core context is a strong factor, many will interpret Pledge for what it presents, a standard play-by-play on tired Horror tropes. If the plot had a different approach with the backdrop and slate of characters Pledge would have redefined the genre. The plot blurs the line of realism, for example, the lack of reports on missing persons and/or any investigations on the victims. Dissecting the screenplay one could come up with it many questions left unanswered and scenarios left unexplored.
The cinematography work was effective in conveying the necessary amount of tension in Pledge. Cinematographer William Babcock and Director Daniel Robbins do great work on making the environment stands out as an added character. Audiences will find a cornucopia of well-placed camera angles that help tell the story.
Each shot feels as though Daniel Robbins takes the viewer by the hand to showcase suspense and turmoil. Take, for instance, the intimate close-ups to bring out the emotion between the antagonist and protagonist. There is also the wide angle view to tease symbolic references within the environment. The opening scene with its interpretation of freedom is a contrast to the dim-lit room that conveys imprisonment. This dramatic transformation from ACT I TO ACT III brings with it a superb exhibition of visual storytelling.
The performances in Pledge were above satisfactory, commendable for the talent exhibited in strong portraits and dialogue. The cast avoided the B-Movie form of acting. Instead, audiences will find a layered level of emotion. Pledge treks on comedic elements to break the otherwise dark aspects. None of the performances overshadow by another, each actor, actress blend to the tone. Yet, Actor Aaron Dalla Villa projects deep intensity, energy best described as maniacal or unhinged.
Pledge has its pros and cons and debating between the two depends on the individual viewer. There is room for improvement for this hunter and hunted themed Horror film. The protagonists and antagonists were standard in approach. Yet, the cinematic and performances were masterful and compelling to watch. For audiences interested in blood and gore, the practical effects exhibited in Pledge are to a bare minimum. With visuals, Director Daniel Robbins did not incorporate cheap jump scares in any of the scenes of Pledge and this decision is most welcome. Writer Zack Weiner also avoided any element of a scare factor to the storyline.
Strip the cliché and Pledge has an interesting social commentary audience should approach in discussion after watching the film.