The guests at a raucous house party start seeing double in “+1,” but it has nothing to do with too much drugs or booze. This trippy oddity from Greek helmer Dennis Iliadis (his first since Hollywood horror remake “Last House on the Left”) concocts a strange mash-up of “Project X” and “Primer,” and the outcome plays as discordant as it sounds. Still, word of mouth among cult movie aficionados seeking something unexpected, plus an abundance of gratuitous nudity, could make the IFC Midnight release a VOD sleeper.
Clean-cut college kid David (Rhys Wakefield) gets dumped by his girlfriend Jill (Ashley Hinshaw) after she catches him in a compromising misunderstanding. Unable to move on, David tags along with horny baby-faced buddy Teddy (Logan Miller) to an epic rager in the hopes of explaining himself and reconciling with Jill. The event takes an unexpected turn after a mysterious meteor crash inexplicably creates an exact double of everyone at the party. Adding to the confusion, the doubles pop up on a slight delay — mimicking the recent past like a creepy echo in time but also able to interact with anyone in the “present” timeline.
Due to a clever contrivance that keeps most of the partygoers on the move from place to place, only a handful of characters realize what’s happening at first. Teddy, for one, freaks out when the blonde bombshell (Natalie Hall) he just bedded suddenly materializes next to him in a pre-coital state, while the post-coital “original” is still visible in the bathroom shower. The action gets increasingly loopier as a series of power surges push the doubles forward in time, inching ever closer to the present.
While Iliadis and screenwriter Bill Gullo build a modicum of suspense over what might happen when the two timelines fully converge, “+1” avoids typical horror/thriller conventions (at least until a few dark and violent twists in the third act). Instead, the pic’s central focus falls a bit too heavily on the wan lovers’ quarrel between David and Jill. When David blows it with Jill a second time he seizes the opportunity for a do-over with her double, but is that version of Jill even real?
The strengths then lie in an overall structural and aesthetic playfulness, bolstered by the canny contributions of Francis Ford Coppola’s current d.p. of choice Mihai Malaimare Jr. (who also shot Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master”) and “Dogtooth” helmer Giorgos Lanthimos’ regular editor Yorgos Mavropsaridis (who also cut Iliadis’ debut feature “Hardcore”). Carefully repeated imagery, in-camera tricks and well-executed fx combine to create a tantalizing visual puzzle that demands full attention, even as the flavorless characters and largely so-so performances risk audience indifference.
It’s also never quite clear if the film’s overriding misogyny is intended as caustic commentary on the characters, or simply reps an ingrained element of the party-movie genre. Either way, “+1” could use a few more ideas along the line of David and Teddy’s shy pal Allison (twins Suzanne and Colleen Dengel), who finds an eerie comfort in being able to interact with herself, to fully realize its arty B-movie ambitions.