On paper, The 6th Friend sounds like it has the potential to be a slasher with a clever feminist angle to it. Six college girlfriends reunite at a cabin in the woods, after going through a horrific experience at a graduation party a few years prior, only to realize that the man who has haunted them since the party has come to murder them. It’s a simple enough slasher premise, with the possibility to upend some of the tropes of the slasher genre with an all-female cast, female writers, and a female director in Letia Clouston. It is unfortunate, then, that this film leans so heavily on these tropes, while also being nearly devoid of any scares, humor, or general logic.
The 6th Friend starts promisingly, with a flashback to the night that would change these women’s lives. We focus on Joey (Jamie Bernadette), who seems uneasy when a drug dealer is invited and shows up to the party with acid for all the women to take. A visually inventive drug sequence ensues, as we watch Joey taking in her surroundings, while the man puts on a sinister party mask and takes one of the women to the bedroom. The film then flashes forward to present day, where Joey is being driven by her friend Melissa (Chantelle Albers) to the cabin, where their other friends (Dominique Swain, Jessica Morris, Tania Nolan, and Monique Rosario) are waiting to party and collectively rid themselves of the trauma they experienced that fateful night. Joey is very reluctant, but Melissa promises that it will be good for all of them. (spoiler alert – it won’t). Sure enough, a figure in the same mask appears in the woods outside the cabin, with the intent to kill.
The film struggles to build up any suspense, mainly due to the fact that it takes nearly 40 minutes for anything to happen. We spend so much time watching these friends pal around and bounce off each other; in theory, these scenes should help me care about these women and their fates. But when the writing is not particularly clever or enlightening as to who these people are, it’s very hard to latch on to anyone. Bernadette (who also co-wrote with Clouston) gives the most nuanced performance as Joey; I actually believed her as a human being. The rest of the women don’t fare as well, particularly Chantelle Albers’s outrageously over-the-top Melissa and Dominique Swain’s comedic relief (which, partially thanks to the writing, almost never lands). One scene, where all the girls reveal that they have been haunted by the masked man in their separate lives, is the most compelling in the entire film. And yet, even that scene goes on for longer than necessary, diluting the film’s most potently dramatic moment.
Once the sixth friend arrives to terrorize these women, the film only gets slightly more interesting, but infinitely more baffling and ludicrous. Character reactions do not make any sense. One particular scene involving two of the women sees one of them having a noose thrown around her neck by the killer, while the other friend watches in shock before frantically trying to help; the killer merely steps out of frame and then seemingly disappears from the scene without a trace. It’s all staged and edited so awkwardly that I could not suspend my disbelief. The somewhat intriguing question of whether or not this killer is a supernatural force is seemingly only there to give the writers an excuse to write around the masked murderer practically teleporting from scene to scene, yet deliberately answers this posed question with a laughable third act reveal.
I was desperately hoping that The 6th Friend would be a refreshing feminist take on the slasher genre. Alas, it did not intrigue me with its laborious and plodding first half, and the horror of the second half inspired more laughs and genuine bewilderment than any shrieks of terror. If you’re a fan of Letia Clouston’s previous Lifetime Movie efforts and want to see her take on a darker story, by all means go for it. I wish I could get my 85 minutes back.
The 6th Friend is not rated and is in select theaters this Friday.