Film Review: ‘Haze’

Variety | 10/13/2017 | Dennis Harvey
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Managing to avoid an air of overt exploitation despite considerable lurid content, writer-director David Burkman’s “Haze” is a fictional portrait of particularly abusive fraternity and sorority hazings at a nameless American university. The filmmaker’s debut feature is a somewhat pulpy drama, but it’s effective nonetheless.

While most movies addressing Greek life have been comic (from “Animal House” to “Neighbors”), there have been a fair number that have treated related bullying issues more soberly, from 1977 B-pic “The Hazing” to 2008 trash-horror delight “Frat House Massacre,” not to mention serious-minded recent Sundance breakouts “Goat” and “Burning Sand.” “Haze” lands in the upper-middle of that pack, mixing pseudo-documentary elements with a bacchanalia of staged excesses that sometimes seem to drive the film more than its fairly strong narrative arc. Yet despite some passages that are hyper-edited a little too much a la “MTV Spring Break,” the film has an admirable confidence and credibility.

Nick - Kirk - Curran - Frosh - Phi

Nick (Kirk Curran) is a party-hearty frosh aiming to get into Phi Theta, the most fabled frat on his campus. He makes the initial cut after Rush Week, but still has to survive Pledge Week, then **** Week, with increasingly punitive tests of “loyalty.” Meanwhile, protests against fraternity hazing attract attention, particularly from Nick’s older brother Pete (Mike Blejer), whom we eventually learn witnessed a prior Psi Theta recruit’s death from excessive hazing. Pete is, in fact, making a documentary exposé on the subject. When the filial attachment becomes known to Nick’s potential “brothers,” they target him for particular abuse.

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