January 9, 2019 The 6th Friend (Movie Review)
Wes Craven’s Scream meets I Know What You Did Last Summer in Jamie Bernadette’s brand-new Slasher, The 6th Friend, which opens in select U.S. theaters on Friday, January 11, 2019, via The Asylum. Please remember: never mess around with a psycho!
Years ago, six college friends were involved in a traumatic event that left a man dead. Now trying to finally put the past to rest, they come together again to spend a girls’ weekend at a remote cabin in the woods. The friends are a motley crew that includes aspiring thespian Mel (Chantelle Albers: Modern Family series, In Search of Fellini 2017); bubbly blonde Heather (Dominique Swain: Lolita 1997, Face/Off 1997); quiet Katie (Jessica Morris: One Life to Live series, Ladies of the Lake: Return to Avalon mini-series); stoner Becca (Monique Rosario: The Knockout Game short 2014, Lives short 2018); calming presence Sahara (Tania Nolan: Underworld: Rise of the Lycans 2009, Home and Away series); and reluctant Joey (Jamie Bernadette: Midnight, Texas series, I Spit On Your Grave: Deja Vu 2019).
With their ladies-only weekend in full-swing, it quickly becomes apparent that Joey is still struggling emotionally with the incident surrounding the death of Tyler (David Villada: 6 Ways to Die 2015, Destruction Los Angeles 2017), one that has haunted the group and their friendship for years. Soon, Mel lets slip her own confession: she has seen Tyler following her. As the others begin to the admit to the same, it becomes apparent that there is a much bigger issue than initially suspected. Are these college friends the victims of a shared psychological delusion or are they being haunted by the ghost of a dead man? Perhaps most importantly, what is a strong-willed and fiesty woman to do when death comes knocking at her cabin door?
Clocking in at 85-minutes, The 6th Friend was directed by Letia Clouston (The Demon in the Dark 2016, The Midwife’s Deception TV movie 2018), and written by actress Bernadette (who stars as Joey) along with Clouston. So, the question lingers: is a film that utilizes elements of 1996’s Scream and 1997’s I Know What You Did Last Summer as brilliant as the modern classics that inspired it?
Well, no — with a bit of yes. It’s admittedly a nearly insurmountable goal to overstep such Teen Horror/Slasher classics as the aforementioned films, though The 6th Friend is certainly not a flop. It is, however, a film that goes hard on Girl Power, nearly to a fault. Whereas many Horror films have boys being boys, The 6th Friend goes for girls being girls — complete with talk of hairy bushes and big balls, drinking copious amounts of sangria, and bitching at one another about being bitches. It’s all in fun, though there are some statistics about women in government, and a serious conversation on how, if we as women can learn to stick together, we can accomplish anything.
That might be true, but there are still some major issues with The 6th Friend that keep it from being brilliant. Perhaps the largest dilemma with the film is its script, which needs some gentle tweakage to make it more effective. In fact, the film’s largest undoing is the fact that within ten minutes, most viewers will know what’s going on here (i.e. who’s the bad guy), which is a definite detractor from the production’s overall success. An intriguing and intelligent mystery is always more exciting than a blatantly obvious whodunnit.
Furthermore, there’s the issue of whether or not Tyler is truly a bad dude. If he actually has committed any crime is very much wide open for interpretation, which, in turn, leaves viewers to struggle to find empathy for this group of ladies. Are they loving friends who were intent to save one of their own or are they simply cold-hearted bitches? It seems more than likely the latter is the case here, and that kind of dampens the whole Girl Power angle of the film. Because, let’s face it, us gals are going to back the righting of a wrong She-Ra style, but maybe not so much the violent psychosis of an acid trip gone awry.
So, with audiences no doubt polarized in what they will take away from their experience, The 6th Friend seemingly rests heavily on its strong showing of female cast. Sadly, the bulk of these lady characters are so flat as to be cannon fodder. This is the fate due Swain’s Heather, Morris’ Katie, Rosario’s Becca, and Nolan’s Sahara. Each of the ladies are convincing in their roles, fun in the group scenes, though their characters give them little to work with.
The bulk of the film’s true meat goes to Bernadette and Albers. Albers is a fiery redhead who gives a performance full of panache and quirky twists, often times performing a scene within a scene. Her character is equal parts dramatic actress and elegant sociopath, and she does the role a justice that is oddly spooky.
Her foil, the haunted Joey, is given life by Bernadette’s careful depictions of her character’s conundrum. Joey is clearly struggling emotionally, has undergone an estrangement from her friends, and yet she is also quick to fight for her life and the lives of her friends. In many films such as this, an actor/writer casts themselves in the main role and then fails to deliver the goods. Bernadette defies this idea, embracing the character she has created and bringing life to all of Joey’s intricate angles.
All said, The 6th Friend seeks to spice up your life with a healthy dose of slashing goodness (and a noose), some Girl Power and comedy, and ends up with a largely enjoyable Horror-Thriller offering. Okay, so it’s not without its flaws, but it’s still worth a bag of microwave popcorn and a glass of that much-coveted sangria. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock give The 6th Friend 3.5 of 5 stars.