Film Review: Haze

An abrasive, almost unwatchable movie that makes you wonder why anyone would ever want to be part of a fraternity or sorority.
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There must be enough people who enjoy the fraternity and/or sorority lifestyle, considering the number of these houses on campus at just about every major college or university. If you were to believe comedies like National Lampoon’s Animal House, Neighbors orOld School, then it’s a 24-hour party and a laugh a minute.

Written and directed by David Burkman, Haze isn’t a comedy about college lifestyle—instead, it’s meant to be a cautionary tale, a thriller of sorts, yet it somehow comes across more like a guide on how to run a fraternity hazing.

It begins with the death of Zack Green, a Psi Pheta Epsilon rush who was literally hazed to death by drinking more than any human could handle. Our guide into this world, though, is “nice guy” Nick Forest (Kirk Curran), who is rushing for Psi, while at the same time his older brother Pete (Mike Blejer) is making an anti-hazing film. Nick’s childhood friend Mimi (Kristin Rogers) is trying to get into Psi’s sorority counterpart Delta, helped by the older Sophie (Sophia Medley), who seems to have her own interests in Nick.

That’s really the whole story, and it isn’t much, so you basically know exactly where it’s going at all times. Even so, Burkman drags everything out, as we’re forced to watch these stupid young white kids torture one another and/or be humiliated. Every once in a while, he cuts back to Pete making his movie, interviewing (presumably) real college kids talking about the pluses and minuses of frat life.

Burkman’s screenplay isn’t particularly good, and because parts of the movie are meant to be found footage (for whatever reason), the usual shaky handheld camerawork that comes with that makes the movie look even less professional than most indie films.

What might have been the most interesting part of the movie is the conflict between the two brothers. Curran and Blejer are decent actors, but they don’t have much of a chance to show it with only a couple dramatic moments together. Then we’re back to another frat party or hazing ritual, with the few decent actors overpowered by bad, stereotypical frat boys trying to show what d-bags they can be. Frankly, this kind of behavior is absolutely abhorrent, inexcusable and not even remotely entertaining.

Nick gets dragged deeper into the frat’s hazing rituals, and his frat brothers eventually go after his real brother Pete, while Mimi is humiliated to the point where she has to leave Delta. Eventually it even gets back to Zack Green, as his mother tearfully tells what happened to her son... and then that subplot is quickly forgotten again. And this happens before the movie even gets to “Hell Week,” when it becomes truly unwatchable.

Haze just keeps showing more and more extreme hazing rituals, sadly some of which might inspire copycat behavior. With all the talk about campus rape, a movie like this is just plain irresponsible, and at times it’s infinitely worse than torture porn, since so much of what you’re watching seems to be done solely for shock value. Burkman also tries to show that the girls are just as vicious as the boys, adding to the surfeit of deplorable characters.

There have been far better movies dealing with frat hazing in a far more interesting way. Andrew Neel’s Goat and Will Canon's Brotherhood are much more effective because they take the time to develop the characters and make you care about them. Hazing aside, they act like humans would, not like overprivileged stereotypes.

The biggest problem with Burkman’s movie is that it wants it both ways—it wants to show how bad hazing is while also “entertaining” with its disturbing content. Then he tries to tie it all together with Greek mythology, which is probably Haze’s greatest offense.

With nothing particularly new or revelatory to offer, Haze is a terrible, pointless movie. Who would willingly want to subject themselves to the torture of watching it?

Click here for cast and crew information.