Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dennis Iliadis' +1: a wild and crazy sci-fi/doppelganger/teen-party mash-up

Sometimes a movie's premise can be good enough to lift and carry the film over hurdles that would trip most filmmakers flat. So it is with +1, an odd little flick in which something extraterrestrial comes to earth and begins replicating, Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style, everyone in sight. There's a difference here, however: Those replicants don't seem to even realize they're not the originals: They act and think and feel just like 'us. Still, they aren't us. So what' a poor "original" to do?

With direction and story by Dennis Iliadis (shown at left) and a screenplay from Bill Gullo, the movie combines the likes of Project X, Can't Hardly Wait, and any number of Invasion/Body Snatcher rip-offs, yet the overall effect is one of surprising charm and odd delight, as +1 goes from rom-com to sci-fi to something creepy and creepier -- then back again.

This genre-jumping keeps us off-kilter yet on-our-toes and is a very smart move on the filmmaker's part. There is always so much going on -- from party hi-jinks to doppel-ganger take-over to rom-com heartache -- that by the time we've stopped to catch a breath, the movie's moved on and we're panting to keep up.

TrustMovies has seen a few of these cast member previously, most noticeably Aussie actor Rhys Wakefield (above) from The Black Balloon and The Purge, but most of them do a fine job of pulling us in and keeping us glued. Often in these sci-fi romps, the set-up is a lot more fun than the pay-off, but here both set-up and pay-off work well enough to pass muster, even if the latter, as usual, is not quite up to the level of the former.

But what with all the partying and silliness and suspense (there's a time lag between the actions of the originals and the replicants that seems to be growing closer; once simultaneity occurs, what happens next?), the movie keep us riveted and alternately laughing and shocked.

I don't mean to over-praise this little toss-away, but in a very crowded field, originality is not something to be sneezed at or taken lightly. After his better-than-expected (but still unnecessary) re-do of The Last House on the Left, Mr. Iliadis has moved on to something a lot more unusual and enjoyable. Let's see what he gets up to next....

Meanwhile, you can stream +1 -- from IFC Films and running maybe a tad overlong at 97 minutes -- on Netflix, or watch it on DVD.

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