Two friends decide to put each other in a chamber for psychological experimentation controlled by the other, in a bet that if they can't take it anymore before a week has passed they will give away the code to an account with $10,000. It starts out as fun, but will they discover things within each other and themselves that they had hoped they could hide?
I'm sure most people are familiar with the feeling that you know something about a person that they don't themselves. A.J. Bond's feature film "Stress Position" is an uncomfortable discovery of what two friends can do to each other just to prove something. It doesn't take the typical route of torture, but it delivers something a lot more powerful than any "Saw" ever could. Perhaps it reminds me more of "The Bunny Game" taking place within the world of "Cube".
"Stress Position" begins with an explanation in front of cameras of what it about to happen. A.J. and Dave (both playing fictional versions of themselves, I believe) describe the reasoning behind their planned experiment - by bringing up their own personal issues with each other. The idea for the experiment came about when A.J. said he'd be able to get out of Guantanamo Bay using reasoning and wits, which Dave sees as complete bullshit. The two friends - and the clearly are friends - definitely have some unsolved issues with each other, and they decide the way to do it is to make a bet. The bet is that they will give themselves over to the other for psychological torture over the course of 7 days, or until they break down and give out the secret code to an account where they've put in $10,000 for the other to take. Dave loses a good ol' rock-papers-scissors and is the first person to go into the "chamber". Meanwhile A.J., as a filmmaker, wants to film the entire process in hopes to find something about a person rarely captured on film.
At first, this was a fun movie to watch. We're excited to see whatever psychological terror they will treat each other to. Slowly you start to get unnerved by the ways that A.J. is torturing Dave, but things take a darker turn once Dave shows himself unmoved by a certain experiment and A.J. becomes more desperate. During Dave's week of being tortured, A.J. is getting more and more bizarre and mean-spirited. But is it still just a game of breaking his friend for the money?
Without revealing to much of what's to come, I'll say that eventually is it Dave's turn to torture A.J., and he comes even more prepared. I could go on about the story alone, as I find it both fascinating and thrilling, but I had to find a balance between giving enough and too much away.
"Stress Position" exceeded my every expectation. This is a movie that really challenges you. It doesn't do it in the most typical way, instead it does it by forcing you to dig deep into yourself and the people you know. It's an awkward, uncomfortable and psychologically heavy movie. It undergoes several twists to make it just as hard for the characters as for the audience. Without actual shocks (especially graphically), the movie still presents an experience which can most accurately be described as "shocking". It shows a part of friendship that many know is there, but hopes will never come out. For being such a stylish movie, it always manages to keep its feet on the ground, keeping it small and simple to truly unnerve you.
This is a movie which wouldn't work if it wasn't for the great performances by A.J. Bond and David Amito. They're equally oustanding, and before the movie ends you don't know who to root for even though A.J. Bond often took the role as the antagonist (if there is one here). They make you believe that they are friends that know each other too well, which is hard to show unless you want it to come off as the over-used "bromance". You believe it instantly, but they also make it damn clear that they feel superior to their friend, and believe that they know more about them than they do. A.J. Bond deserves recognition for directing, writing, producing and starring in something so powerful as this debut feature.
Its "Cube"-like set design makes it much more than just a game between friends, it shows how serious they are about the experiment. There's nothing in the room but a strange metal sculpture-ish object in the center, all white walls and just a cup to do your "needs" in. Trouble was brewing the moment Dave stepped into the room. The set might be very typical for a "torture chamber movie", but it does the deed. It seems to deliberately planned, constructed to truly be able to push each other too far.
"Stress Position" shouldn't be missed out. It's a nearly flawless debut feature which jumps head first into psychological terror. There's something darkly methodic, almost evil, in "Stress Position". A selfish experimentation of friendship, where someone is more interested in how far they can go to achieve something, than they care about their relationship. At times this is a very emotionally hard movie to tackle, but you're rewarded if you do. It makes you think, not just about yourself, but others. It almost forces you to open up, and we're all uncomfortable with the idea of that. As a director myself, it's very interesting to watch this as an experiment between a director and an actor, and not just friends, and it succeeds just as much when seen that way. A.J. Bond needs to make some spectacular movies in the future to ever top this debut feature.