There's an interesting idea for a modern Gothic chiller behind THE CLUB, but this atmospheric film eventually falls back on horror cliches.
In an enormous castle, where the Eastern High School prom is being held, we meet several students with various personal problems: handsome Evan (Rino Romano) is worried about his teacher, Mr. Carver (Kim Coates), who has an unseemly attraction for Evan's girlfriend, Amy (Andrea Roth); Kyle (Zack
Ward) and Laura (Kelli Taylor) have a troubled relationship; and Darren (Matthew Ferguson) is grappling with loneliness. Midnight strikes, and suddenly these five are the only ones left in the locked-down building, except a flip young man named John (Joel Wyner), who encourages them to split up to
find a way out.
While searching a basement library, Amy, Laura, and Darren discover books full of photographs of murderers and suicides--and one of the photos appears to be of John. Soon Darren is confronted by a double of himself, who reminds him of his own suicidal urges and leads him to take his own life.
During a clinch with Amy, Evan transforms into Carver and then into John; the real Evan arrives, and John informs the couple that he is a member of a hellish "club" made up of killers and suicides, and that they and the others are being tested to see if they can stand up to their fears. While
Laura is struggling to fight off Kyle's unwanted sexual advances, Carver reappears to test Evan and Amy's strength; after a series of confrontations, they succeed in killing him.
The setting returns to normal, and Laura is able to fight back against Kyle; in the struggle, however, she falls to her death from a balcony and Kyle is arrested for her murder. Evan and Amy have survived, but then she's confronted by Carver once again.
A group of disparate people being forced to confront their deepest fears is not a new theme, but THE CLUB begins with the promise of an intriguing variation on the old standard. The notion of setting up the high school dance as a costume party in the labyrinthine castle allows for settings and
dress that give the movie a nicely old-fashioned feel, and director Brenton Spencer keeps the atmosphere going pretty much to the end. Unfortunately, as the film goes on, the narrative begins to lag, and the movie suffers from too many repetitive shots of the characters running down hallways
looking for other characters, too many scenes that are truncated before they can build true tension, and entirely too many arch wisecracks from John. The role of this demonic MC (originally cast with, of all people, Corey Haim) is at first slyly scary, thanks in part to Wyner's performance, but
steadily devolves into the self-defeating, smart-ass villain approach that is all too prevalent in post-Freddy Krueger horror films.
On a pure fright level, there are some briefly jolting moments and strong makeup effects (for which Gordon Smith, a veteran of PLATOON and JACOB'S LADDER, was an uncredited consultant), and Coates is effectively slimy as the perverted Mr. Carver. But the narrative doesn't really go anywhere, and
the film begins to feel like a "Twilight Zone" episode distended to feature length. While the nasty final twist to Kyle and Laura's subplot has some horrific resonance, the movie ends on an annoyingly inconclusive note. The result is a CLUB that few people will be in a hurry to join. (Graphicviolence, nudity, sexual situations, extreme profanity.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: NR
- Review: There's an interesting idea for a modern Gothic chiller behind THE CLUB, but this atmospheric film eventually falls back on horror cliches. In an enormous castle, where the Eastern High School prom is being held, we meet several students with various pe… (more)