Brotherhood: Film Review

Viewers get paddled into submission in this strident frat-house thriller.

Will Canon directs Jon Foster and Lou Taylor Pucci in a low-budget thriller that finds itself going over the top.

A college fraternity initiation spirals way out of control in Brotherhood, a low-budget, high-pitched thriller that does likewise after a promising start. In expanding his eight-minute NYU short film, Roslyn into a (barely) feature-length proposition, director Will Canon keeps the energy level cranked but over-amplifies the dramatics to shrill effect, resulting in an unfortunate tone that undermines the serious-minded intent.

Opening in Dallas and nationwide on video-on-demand this weekend, and Los Angeles the following weekend, the film will unlikely drive many pledges to actual theaters.

Canon and his editor, Josh Schaeffer, hit the ground running, starting off in the back of a van, where a nervous fraternity pledge (Trevor Morgan), is getting ready to complete the final stage of his Sigma Zeta Chi initiation — by holding up a convenience store.

But what was originally intended as an elaborate prank goes horribly wrong, escalating into one bloody mess of a night as the freshman and a senior frat brother (a solid Jon Foster) butt heads in a tense power struggle. 

The script, written by Canon and Doug Simon, clearly has much to say about many issues, including the danger of hazing rituals, racial violence and sexual humiliation. But in cramming everything in, the ensuing histrionics leave the film nowhere else to go but over the top.

As a result, there are moments that have you wondering if you’re meant to laugh out loud — not that you’d be heard over the blaring metal soundtrack.

Perhaps Canon would have been wiser to have kept it short.

Opens: Friday, Feb. 18 (Phase 4 Films)
Production companies: Roslyn Prods., Three Folks Pictures, Hunting Lane Films, Instinctive Film GMBH
Cast: Jon Foster, Trevor Morgan, Arlen Escarpeta, Lou Taylor Pucci
Director: Will Canon
Screenwriters: Will Canon, Doug Simon
Producers: Chris Pollack, Steve Hein, Tim O’Hair, Jason Croft
Executive producers: Jamie Patricoff, Kevin Iwashina, Darryn Welch, Chris Ouwinga
Director of photography: Michael Fimognari
Production designer: Eric Whitney
Music: Dan Marocco
Costume designer: Leila Heise
Editor: Josh Schaeffer
Rated R, 80 minutes