Quarter Life Crisis

I watched All My Friends Hate Me (2021).

We start with Pete driving a rather nice car on his way to somewhere in the countryside. He has flashbacks to talking to his girlfriend Sonia about the plan for her to come along later and join in the birthday party for him at his friend’s house.

Along the way he stops to have a piss and notices a car that seems abandoned. An angry man whose face is obscured gets out and chases him.

He has to stop and get advice from a local to complete the journey.

When he arrives at the mansion, no one is around. But then they suddenly turn up and start playing games and bluffing about whether he was invited, whether he sounds different, and whether he compares well with the mysterious stranger Harry they claim to have just met at the pub.

Pete himself draws attention to the obvious horror film cliches that seem to be piling up – the unhelpful “harbinger”, the angry stranger, the gaslighting. We might also notice a reference early on to a motorway crash, which could be a set-up for a reveal that this is all a dying fantasy… SPOILER: no, that’s also a misdirection.

But Pete does seem to be losing grip, which is not surprising as he has rejoined a boozy druggy crowd who are also prone to paranoid insecurity, or at least some of them can do a convincing impression of it. The camerawork also makes a good job of setting up mirrors and windows and doorways suggesting a flicker in the background might undermine the scene at any moment.

This is not a horror or a psychological thriller but it does take a comical slant on some of the conventions of those films in the build-up to the climactic challenge and seeming breakdown and revelation of a “secret” that wasn’t much hinted at before or remembered afterwards.

In films like Ghost Stories or Here Before we have this slow build-up of clues and uninterpreted symbols before the historical trauma is revealed, to explain how it the encircling demons were tormenting the character, who isn’t as innocent and honest as we might have thought. This film lightly parodies that style – the confession doesn’t quite fit, and it just adds to the mystery of who Pete is and whether he belongs in this world of posh people, or if he’s just a pleb they’re playing along with for a joke. Perhaps he’s on the fringes of this class and completely insecure and self-conscious about it, a state explained very well by that Old Etonian Eric Blair (aka George Orwell) in The Road To Wigan Pier. The writers of this film are the Old Etonian duo Tom Stourton (who plays Pete) and Tom Palmer, who appeared as the comedy duo Totally Tom. They also worked, with other members of this cast, on Tales From The Lodge, with Johnny Vegas and Mackenzie Crook. That also worked the Inside No. 9 beat of reviving an old 70s thriller format (in that case the portmanteau film like Asylum) and taking a lightly mocking approach to its creaky conventions.

In the end this film did not do the twists I had come to expect, which is how it managed to be surprising. The ending gently leaves a mystery remaining, as we don’t know exactly what the joke was and who it was being played on.

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