Goat (Sundance Review)
The opening scene of Andrew Neel’s (King Kelly) Goat leaves its audience completely breathless setting the harrowing tone for what’s to follow. Walking back to his car after leaving a frat party early, Brad (Ben Schnetzer) gets approached by a peculiar person asking for a ride. Reluctant at first, he eventually agrees after the stranger insists he’s just going down the road. The situation gets sketchier when the stranger summons another friend to hop in the car as well. Brad reasonably becomes suspicious at this. Then the two strangers admit they didn’t know the guy who threw the party. When they lead him to drive them to a remote field, Brad has no time even to react before the two men beat him to a pulpy mess, take his money, and drive off with his car.
According to his older brother Brett (an unexpectedly remarkable Nick Jonas), none of these horrid events would have transpired if Brad belonged to a fraternity, a brotherhood where his back would always be covered. So he decides to pledge. And the rest of Goat focuses on the bro culture machoism of a fraternity during pledge “Hell Week.” The appeal is obvious at first. Neel shows the glamorous side of partying with frat brothers—an endless supply of booze, girls willing to take off their clothes, and a random appearance by James Franco (who helped produce the film and owns the tiny role). But the fun and games end when the hazing begins.
Based on actual events, Goat is a disturbing look at what people will endure in order to feel accepted. The issue with Goat isn’t watching a bunch of bros force booze upon pledges while also urinating on them as they lay unclothed and tied up, it’s that the film doesn’t know when to stop. Over and over again, pledges are asked to complete asinine tasks, most of which cross the line in human shaming. Exploitation film, perhaps—or torture porn, depending on who you ask—by the end the film leaves its audience as battered as the pledges. Love it or hate it, the film leaves a lasting impression.