[Review] Party Hard, Die Young

“School’s out!” the screen tells us as it shows an island that’s filled to the brim with partying high school and college students. “Each year, thousands of young adults meet to celebrate for an entire week. A party they will never forget.”

The island is thumping along to an electro track as crazy lights, fireworks and pyrotechnics fill the night sky. Young men and women are kissing, dancing and grinding on the dance floor as a DJ spins their EDM directly into their ears. On a superimposed phone screen, we see our group of high school students livestreaming their activities, to include Julia (Elisabeth Wabitsch) sniping a shot of her best friend Jessy (Antonia Moretti) vomiting into a toilet. They are the kind of besties who have plans to go to Vienna in the fall and room together. Except Julia has a secret. She got into a college in Munich and plans to go there instead. She just hasn’t built up the courage to tell her friend, yet.

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Unfortunately, while partying at X-Jam (the party of their life!), the nerdy guy Bogi (Markus Freistätter) accidentally spills the beans and in revenge Jessy pops some pills Julia pilfered from her mom. Julia follows suit as Jessy leaves. Later that night, Julia passes out on a neon-lit path and in a hazy, drug-fueled dream she thinks she sees Jessy being chased and attacked by someone with a Papier-mâché smiley face mask.

Julia wakes up in her bed, unsure how she got there and where Jessy is. Was her vision last night a drug-induced fever dream or is Jessy in trouble? A snapchat picture of Jessy with a white X through her face seems to suggest foul play. No one believes her that someone is picking off our hot coeds one by one. So it’s up to Julia, our plucky amateur detective, to get to the bottom of it.

So Party Hard, Die Young is an Austrian take on a typical slasher film. If you took out the modern trappings, social media and apps, it would fit perfectly with the perfunctory slashers that came out after Scream’s success. It reminds me, in some ways, of I Know What You Did Last Summer in terms of mystery and intent…except that, with few exceptions, the cast is full of completely unlikable characters. Not since the original Unfriended have I watched a cast of terrible human beings get dispatched by some avenging force.

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The cast is way too big for us to care about anyone and reminded me how much I dug Head Count (…I still need to review this one…) and the way it handled a cast of ten. Here, the cast is mostly forgettable and relatively nameless. I wrote some names down like Luki and Sammy but I honestly don’t remember much about them except for their little “quirk.” Sammy—closeted. Luki—the chubby kid.

Honestly, the entire cast is full of archetypes that have been lampooned so many times, like in Cabin in the Woods…except on steroids because there’s so many of them. Dumb jocks. Nerds. Chubby-for-a-movie characters. The heroine. The mean girl. You name it, it’s here. And since they are all under-developed, they become mostly fodder in what Ebert would call a “Dead Teenagers Movie.” The characters are almost completely unlikable and as the story continues, their likability factor just keeps dropping to the point that I was actually rooting for the villain by the end.

And yet, this slasher fix for the Snapchat age entertained me throughout and I can’t quite put my finger on why. Maybe it’s because it reminded me how much I miss this subgenre and its whodunnit mystery. It’s certainly filmed really well by Thomas W. Kiennast and has a couple of pretty cool kills. A fun weekend time waster.