One of the more heralded niche outfits of the indie world, Troma Entertainment are best known for their successful run of splattery, irreverent movies in the 80’s, but have also an enviable reputation for spotting talent on the way up; Trey Parker and Matt Stone, JJ Abrams and others got early breaks from Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz’ Long Island-based company. So it’s nice to see them repeat the trick by picking up writer/director/producer Brian Patrick Butler’s apocalyptic sci-fi body-horror Friend of the World for streaming distribution; while not typical of the Troma imprint, it’s easy to see why they’d be attracted to this film…
‘Civilization has peaked’ and an end of days event has taken place; in a bunker somewhere, a young girl regains consciousness in a room full of corpses. Not all of these corpses are staying dead, and Diane (Alexandra Slade) needs help to survive; she gets it in the form of Gore (Nick Young in John Wayne mode), a war general who seems to have a loose grip on reality and considers her a ‘weakling’. One adversary splatters his face with some goo, which seems to have deadly properties; fortunately Gore has a vaccine on hand, but is the prevention as dangerous as the cure, and what hope do the two fugitives have of survival?
Friend of the World clocks in at an unusual 50 mins; too long for a short, and too short for a feature used to be the prevailing line of thought for this kind of experiment. But streaming changes that, and there’s something to be said for the lack of padding here; Butler’s film plays like an extended Twilight Zone episode, with two actors giving it their all, and a novel idea that has elements of The Thing and early Cronenberg; it’s certainly a novelty that sci-fi and horror fans will dig, because even if it’s a tough watch at times, shot in edgy black and white with bursts of colour, it’s a one-off that certainly provides proof of a good concept.
Friend of the World isn’t a mainstream project, but it’s an innovative, darkly literate film that opens with a quote from Dante, and this time, we don’t mean Joe. ‘To survive this world you have to be perfect’ is a take-away, but to say more would give away some tight hair-pin twists; this must be the only Troma film to date to include the introspective line ‘I am everything except myself’.
It’s not the end of the world: “FRIEND OF THE WORLD” is available from April 2022 on the