Body Double Party: Nifty, original "+1" a double-seeing kick
95 min., rated R.
It's been four years since director Dennis Iliadis made his effectively brutal (and superior) 2009 remake of "The Last House on the Left," and maybe all that time lapsed so he could concoct something original and daringly different for his next feature. Double the teenage archetypes from "Can't Hardly Wait" and "Project X," meld those movies with an "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and "Another Earth" wrench, and you have a vague bottom-line of what you're in for with "+1" (or "Plus One"). It would sound hyperbolic to say this cool, unorthodox part-teen comedy, part-sci-fi, part-horror humdinger flips the teen party comedy genre on its head, but that's precisely what it does, and in a year of genre movies that have been given fresh spins, you can add "+1" to the list.
During his first summer after high school graduation, David (Rhys Wakefield) stayed in his hometown to be with his girlfriend of two years, Jill (Ashley Hinshaw). After making the grave mistake of kissing a girl in the same white uniform at her fencing tournament, David can't quite shake it off, attending a house party with his pal Teddy (Logan Miller), who's ready to have the night of his life. David hopes to be able to talk it out with the unforgiving Jill, who won't answer his phone calls and text messages, and Teddy just wants to get laid. Then a meteorite crashlands nearby, causing a power outage and, unbeknownst to them at first, disrupting the space-time continuum. Nobody really thinks much of it, and then David and Teddy get to the bacchanalia in a huge mansion lit like a Christmas tree by their enthusiastic host Angad (Rohan Kymal). The beer is unlimited. The rave music is pounding. A human sushi tray is set up. They play tennis with a fireball. Even Teddy gets his chance with the attractive Melanie (Natalie Hall). Then, suddenly, there are two of everybody, as the kids observe their other selves repeating what each of them just did a few minutes ago. Are their replicas out to get them? Is there going to be a massive clean-up of disposable bodies at the end of the night?
If you could meet yourself, what would you do? Would you take advantage of the situation, or would you be quick to react and hurt the other you? Could it be fun or could it be dangerous? With a distinct conceit backed up with seamless effects, "+1" is so pleasurable in that we recognize the boy trying to make right with the girl, the horny best friend, the loner, and the sexpot, but we never know where they'll be taken this time around. Iliadis and screenwriter Bill Gullo have fun playing with time and space and know better, washing their hands of a cut-and-dry explanation that could have threatened to take the viewer out of the already-absurd story. Instead, they opt for ambiguity, allowing us to be on the same page as the partygoers and dwell on the implications of such a head-scratching conundrum. Then the horror elements come in once David witnesses one "Kyle" shooting "Kyle 2.0," realizing how life-threatening this situation is going to be, and it all comes to a memorably frenzied head in a pool house.
Of course, the movie wouldn't convince without a competent team of young actors. Wakefield ("The Purge") and Hinshaw ("Project X"), as David and Jill, have to create a layered relationship worth caring about and they pull it off. Miller is fun rather than off-putting as the libidinous Teddy, and the gorgeous Hall takes her Melanie in a surprising direction, giving Teddy exactly what he wants and not turning out to be malicious. Just so happening to have a twin named Colleen, Suzanne Dengel looks like she could be related to Lauren Ambrose (à la Denise Fleming from "Can't Hardly Wait") as loner Melanie, who feels like a bird in a cage. Sometimes the actress mutters her lines, but how Melanie reacts to her doppelgänger is satisfying and touching.
Try picking holes in the logic of it all and you may start to see double yourself. If there's any reason to be persnickety of one in-the-moment viewing, pieces of dialogue are a bit too on the nose, like Jill telling David, "You made me feel replaceable," before she realizes that she actually could be replaced by another version of herself. But, in the grand scheme of things, it moves at a clip rate and nothing can erase how this enticingly nifty and thrillingly loopy ride ups the stakes from the standard party scene. It's one of those little, unknown movies that deserves a chance and a wider release.