The legacy of college hazing and rape culture is the focus of this frequently acid-tongued horror.
Synopsis: As part of a brutal hazing ritual, a young frat pledge leads a wasted girl upstairs to swipe his v-card, only to discover getting lucky isn’t so easy.
Guys at Parties Like It starts with an unusual encounter in which Brad (Anthony Notarile) reveals his specific kink to Trixie (Jacqueline O’Kelly). From the outset, sex and aggression are intrinsically linked – an astute commentary on the attitude of sex as conquest pushed by toxic spaces and institutions, especially that of the fraternity. Frats have often hit headlines for the damage done to women and also the men who want to become part of the exclusive, legacy-laden clubs so it stands to reason that horror would seek to explore this further.
Mary (Monica Garcia Bradley) finds herself ostracised at a frat party, at odds with Trixie and the ins and outs of her sex life are under scrutiny. Considered a ‘sure thing’, Brad takes her to his room, increasingly desperate to meet the terms of his pledge and avoid having to participate in a storied ritual. The house becomes a battleground as the two clash.
The quote ‘Delta sees all’ looms large over the film, with the sense that characters are either firmly under the thrall of or utterly trapped by the rigid, cruel system that has been allowed to run unchallenged for decades. A police officer who appears during the events of the film specifically asks about the ritual, chillingly confirming that this is widely known and those who partake find themselves in positions of power.
Monica Garcia Bradley is an absolute force of nature, providing Mary with vulnerability, strength and an overall watch-ability that offers an anchor even in the film’s most challenging moments. Her presence is so completely captivating that even in dialogue-free scenes she steals the show, brilliantly selling an arresting final sequence.
Guys at Parties Like It wields a sharp tongue, dropping references to real sexual assault cases (Brock Turner is, understandably, name-checked) and irreverent dialogue throughout. In some ways, the brutality of language echoes reality with that dark humour becoming a coping mechanism for horrifying behaviour. It would be easy to point to films like Assassination Nation with frank discussions and blunt social commentary as a driving force. There are times, however, when the film wants to indulge in sex comedy tropes and dialogue. Those films also arguably contribute to damaging attitudes about sex and so it makes sense that the film would seek to echo them, but at times, it feels like too much of a contrast to the darker material.
The editing is sufficiently energetic and melds perfectly with a vibrant soundtrack. The film makes the most of largely limited locations, turning the fraternity house into a neon-soaked house of horrors in places. By gradually building a geography of the house, it furthers our identification with Mary in her attempts to escape. The effects are decent too, matching the escalating levels of horror.
An unevenness of mood does somewhat let this down, but a truly great central performance and the commentary it contains make it more than worth a watch.
3 out 5 stars
Guys at Parties Like It screened as part of Salem Horror Festival 2023.