Hot on the heels of Hatchet III, two more Danielle Harris films come to DVD and Blu-ray just in time for Halloween. She directs Among Friends and stars in The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond. Fans should be pretty satisfied no matter which side of the camera she’s on….
AMONG FRIENDS (2012)
After decades of appearing in Halloween films, Hatchet films, tons of other indie horror, and playing Darlene’s nemesis on Roseanne, our beloved Danielle Harris has hopped into the director chair with Among Friends.
She immediately does a couple of things right. A group of friends jumps in a limo to head to an 80s themed party, all glammed up in vomit-worthy neon. Amazing. The limo driver is none other than horror hunk Kane Hodder, and he’s not behind a mask for a change! He even has some speaking lines, including a few jabs at the guys. There’s just something so sexy about Kane Hodder making derogatory gay quips….
If you’ve seen the horror flick Inhuman Resources, this will be familiar territory for you. This group of friends ends up strapped to chairs around a table getting systematically mind-fucked and tortured! As gruesome and grisly as it sounds, thanks to the vibrant 80s theme and the performance by the hostess, there’s a psychotic campy edge to Among Friends; she drops some great one-liners without waiting for a laugh track or rim shot.
While Among Friends is not a “scary” horror film, you do end up on the edge of your seat as the hostess reveals dirty little secrets about her friends to turn them against each other and have them choose each other’s punishment. This is where I was thinking that no matter how much these people feel stabbed in the back by each other, in real life, they would refuse to play along. Smartly, the script addresses that, but the hostess is so evil she changes the rules as she goes along just to keep the game going and guests participating.
One of the best characters is the lesbian chick. Despite their predicament, she is the most defiant, with an “I don’t give a shit what my friends did behind my back” attitude. This might be in part because she’s also high on drugs and having some awesome trips. At one point, she fantasizes about two Chippendale dancers! And in one of the highlights of the film, she imagines she’s actually on the set of a movie, that none of what’s happening is real, and that one of the other people at the table is Terminator hottie Michael Biehn—and it really is him!
The biggest bonus? Danielle Harris totally gives a gift to her fans by reprising one of her most famous roles. That’s all I’m going to say….
The performances by the cast are outstanding. The wrench thrown into the mix in the final moments is devilish if not predictable. The way it’s achieved is a little absurd and so forced and unrealistic that even the actors seem to deliver their lines with little conviction. That and the abrupt and cheesy ending—one that is very 80s, I might add—are sure to piss off most viewers. There is a tag during the credits, but it doesn’t satisfy.
If you watch Among Friends, I’m pretty sure it will keep you entertained. But you’ve been warned. Unless you like it when a movie leaves you hanging, you’re going to be a bit frustrated with our girl Danielle Harris.
THE BLACK WATERS OF ECHO’S POND (2009)
It’s interesting that the 4-year-old film The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond gets a release a week after Danielle’s directorial debut Among Friends. It’s also interesting that it’s about a bunch of friends playing a game that leads to them finding out each other’s dirty secrets and then turning on each other. Okay. So they’re not the same movie at all aside from that generalized summary, but I couldn’t help notice the similarities because I watched them back-to-back. They both even feature…eek! Lesbianism!
Since the kids in this one find a mysterious game board under a stairwell in the house where they are vacationing, the movie opens with a pretty pointless flashback to 1927 to show us the origins of the game board—but really just to give us some intro gore. The gore in the alternate opening on the Blu-ray is actually much better, although the scene is just as pointless. The opening as it stands also features an unnecessary conflict between characters, one of who is played by Big Bad Wolf (Richard Tyson).
Cut to the present and the group of kids arrives at the island home of Terminator 2’s Richard Patrick, who pretty much spends the whole movie just walking around the island setting animal traps. Kind of a waste of a T2.
Meanwhile, the kids find the game board and begin playing. Amongst the kids are two people who are getting way too old to play kids: Danielle Harris and the Keanu Reeves looking dude from The Doom Generation. There are also the twin sisters from Planet Terror, a guy who was in both the Halloween remake and the Friday the 13th remake, and a chick from House of the Dead 2 and one of the Reeker movies. Horror veteran cast. Get it?
The game leads to confessions about sexual desires, mostly involving the twins. But Danielle is a totally awesome slut bunny who doesn’t discriminate; she has a black boyfriend and desires one of the chicks. There’s also an uncomfortable tension between the black dude and his “white chocolate” friend who constantly criticizes him for acting too black. Plus, everyone hates Kea-no for various reasons.
This is where things get weird. As soon as they start to mess with the game, one of the twins sees one of the guys turn into a freaky demon when he’s making scary faces under a flashlight, but no one else notices, so she thinks she’s imagining it. I was all set for a Night of the Demons kind of movie.
Sadly, the kids never turn into gnarly demons! WTF? The most they get is black eyes. And early on in the game, characters see flashes of a cool horned beast through windows and stuff, but his presence is completely dropped once the kids get “possessed” and start to turn on each other.
The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond turns into your standard slasher after that, however it is fun, and the gore is pretty brutal at times. And Danielle once again gives us echoes of her own horror past, ending up on a roof being chased by a killer! The final minutes of the film offer real payoff because nothing goes the way you expect it and the conclusion is just dastardly good.