You only need to learn that Friend of the World was picked up by the iconic Troma Entertainment to begin to realize that you're in for something out of the ordinary with the slight but impactful 50-minute feature film written and directed by Brian Patrick Butler. Friend of the World is a surreal and absurd motion picture centered around almost exclusively around two characters, General Gore (Nick Young) and Diane Keaton (Alexandra Slade).
The former is a bit of an oddball general. The latter a filmmaker who inexplicably awakens in an underground bunker surrounded by dead bodies and nary a clue where she is or how she got there. The film is almost exclusively shot in black-and white, its darkly comical absurdities somehow peacefully co-existing with equal amounts low-budget horror and suspense-filled sci-fi.
The story itself is rather simple, though it is also layered, twisted, and practically smothered. Butler knows precisely what he's doing here and never allows the film to fall into complacency. On the surface, Friend of the World would appear to be a post-apocalyptic indie horror involving two mismatched people trying to escape their surroundings. Indeed, much of the film does seem to follow this storyline.
Butler, however, always has his eyes on a bigger prize.
Nick Young makes for an intriguing figure a General Gore, whose presence is always difficult to figure out and whose entire persona is all over the place throughout Friend of the World. Young plays him as the best type of caricature - a believable one. Gore feels like a constant threat to his new companion, to himself, and to this environment around him. The character unfolds in marvelous ways to watch and Young brings it all beautifully to life.
Alexandra Slade's Diane Keaton is the more seemingly even-keeled of the two, though her presence conflicts with Gore in a myriad of ways. Given less to do dramatically, Slade finds subtle nuances to keep her character interesting and to always keep us guessing what's going to happen next.
Ray Gallardo's lensing is extremely effective. Clarity is surprisingly solid for a low-budget indie and Gallardo nicely amps up the film's chills and thrills. The film's special effects convince because Butler doesn't try to outdo his budget. The effects fit within the storyline and help bring it to life.
Friend of the World most certainly won't resonate with everyone. Those who appreciate Troma films will find much to love here, though for the most part this is a film more concerned with the impact of violence than the violence itself. Still, the film kept me watching from beginning to end and most certainly doesn't outstay its welcome.
If Samuel Beckett were to dabble into existential sci-fi/horror, I have a feeling it would look an awful lot like Friend of the World.
In case you're wondering, that's a compliment.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic