Director Dennis Iliadis shocked horror audiences with his work on the 2009 remake of Wes Craven’s classic The Last House on the Left, mostly because despite virtually everyone agreeing that this was a film that absolutely did not need a remake, the remake itself was actually considerably better than it should/could have been. Iliadis had only directed one feature before, a film entitled Hardcore (2004) that he made in his home country of Greece. Like many directors from Europe, Iliadis’s first Hollywood job was that horror remake, which was surprisingly well-received, apparently enough that he was able to make his latest project from an original screenplay instead of being assigned another remake. While it retains some trappings of the horror genre Iliadis has proven himself so adept in, +1 leans more toward science fiction and teen comedy, and it’s an exciting hybrid.
David (Rhys Wakefield) pays a surprise visit to his girlfriend Jill (Ashley Hinshaw), competing in a fencing tournament on the last night of her first year of college. David has stayed behind in their hometown and only reluctantly left, and he gets himself into major trouble when he mistakes the girl who beat Jill in the tournament for Jill and is caught kissing her. He returns home to his best friend Teddy (Logan Miller) begging him to forget Jill and go to the biggest party of the Summer with Teddy and their friend Alison (Suzanne Dengel). They arrive at the party already in full swing, the huge house packed with people from their high school including Jill, with a new date. David is desperate to get Jill back, and tries to explain what happened in a conversation that goes very badly. Alison is also having a bad time, being teased by the popular kids. Teddy, on the other hand, somehow manages to talk Melanie (Natalie Hall), spectacularly out of his league, into bed.
Then things get weird. Unbeknownst to David, Teddy and Alison, a small object from space crash-landed near the house where the party is being held, and after the power goes out for a moment, the three friends (and Natalie) find themselves back at the moment they arrived at the party, watching themselves and everyone else re-enact the same span of time all over again. While the others panic and try to figure out what their “doubles” might want, David knows immediately how he can use this inexplicable situation to his advantage and possibly get Jill back again. The only hitch is that every so often, the power goes out and when it comes back, the “doubles” are closer in time to the original partygoers. While Teddy and Melanie try to stop all their friends from getting hurt or hurting themselves, David manipulates the “double” Jill and Alison makes a surprising friend. All the while, the countdown to catch-up time is ticking away, and no one knows what happens after that.
+1 is bound to draw comparisons to other “time loop” films such as Primer, Timecrimes, and Triangle, but its dark comedic focus and disregard for carefully following the rules of its supernatural situation set it apart. Iliadis is mostly interested in how the handful of characters who know what is happening deal with the situation and what it says about them as people. David, burgeoning sociopath, instantly sees a way to get what he wants even at the expense of his “double,” plunging forward with an improvised plan to get Jill back before he even understands what’s happening to himself and his friends. Teddy, seemingly unable to take anything seriously, suddenly steps up and takes responsibility to help save his friends, even if his approach to doing so may be completely wrong-headed. Alison is the only person who has the sense to sit back and observe, to figure out what’s happening and how to deal with it. What happens to everyone else is both somewhat inexplicable (the final act is something of a mess, but mostly an entertaining one) and inevitable given what little we know about them: they’re young, they’re drunk and high, and they don’t like to share. +1 is fun, bleakly funny, and definitely the best sci-fi/horror/teen drama of 2013.
IFC released +1 on DVD on 14 January 2014. Special features include a commentary track, visual effects behind-the-scenes featurette, deleted scenes, interviews with cast & crew, poster gallery, cast auditions, and trailers.