From Paramount Pictures and director Andrew Neel comes the shocking fraternity hazing drama based on the memoirs by Brad Land – Goat. Starring Ben Schnetzer, Nick Jones, James Franco, Gus Halper, Danny Flaherty, Virginia Gardner and Jake Picking the film is now playing in select cinemas and on VOD as of September 23, 2016.
Reeling from a terrifying assault, a 19 year-old boy enrols into college with his brother and pledges the same fraternity. What happens there, in the name of “brotherhood” tests the boy and his loyalty to his brother in brutal ways.
Andrew Neel’s GOAT is a movie that is both difficult to watch but essential viewing. Hazing has definitely progressed from the days when Kevin Bacon was asking “Please sir, may I have another?” while he takes a paddle to the ass in Animal House. Now they’re putting these pledges in cages, pissing on them and making them drink so much alcohol that it could damn well kill them. It’s very disturbing… But, even though GOAT explores the true story of college fraternity hazing gone wrong, at it’s core the film is about the relationship between two brothers played magnificently by Nick Jonas and Ben Schnetzer.
We kick things off at a house party, where Schnetzer’s character decides to leave the shindig early (too much blow and lesbian stuff going on makes the guy uncomfortable) and he winds up giving some creepy dude and his “boy” a ride to the middle of nowhere. The two dudes kick the ever loving shit out of Schnetzer and leave him for dead. The guy spends the rest of the summer coping with the assault before his brother (Jonas) convinces him to go to college in the Fall and pledge to his Frat house. At first, it’s all fun and games and the Frat brothers speak of nothing but the brotherly love and family values they all have for each other. The bonds are really strong here between BROS, but little do they know — shit is about to get a tad out of control when Hell Week begins and the pledges get put through the ringer.
GOAT takes time to get to the actual hazing sequences and I think that was a very clever move because we spend a lot of time getting to know both the brothers, their Frat bros and all them other bros. So many bros in GOAT. If you want to play a drinking game while watching GOAT (DON’T though – please DON’T), take a shot every time someone says “Bro”. You’ll end up half dead like the guys in the flick – laying on the floor covered in mud, vomit, piss and actual Goat shit. There are several tonal comparisons to Larry Clark’s ‘Bully’ or ‘Kids’ here in GOAT, where the exploration and visceral true nature of this phase in youth is displayed on screen in a very realistic and uncomfortable manner. It gives the film an authentic vibe and I love it when a movie doesn’t feel the need to sugar-coat itself in any way just to appease the studio or mass audiences.
Schnetzer is such a strong lead in GOAT and to see this poor young man having to deal with being battered and treated so poorly at the hands of the guys he considers his closest friends, not long after the traumatising assault that he endured a couple months ago… is sad and it’s incredibly puzzling. We see this dark manipulation taking place, where the same guys dishing out the punishment are hugging and cheering on the pledges seconds after degrading them so much.
James Franco has two brief scenes halfway through where he plays a former FRAT brother that stops by the house to say hi and get completely wasted. It’s a very memorable sequence seeing him pump up Schnetzer’s character as they talk about how the Frat would never let him get his ass beat like he had over the summer. It’s a dramatic and intense scene that kicks off the actual hazing portion of GOAT and even though he doesn’t have much screentime, Franco kills it like Franco always does. “Punch me in the stomach!” – I love crazy Franco. Love him.
It’s a tough movie to sit through at times, but it’s so well done and it’s never excessive just for the sake of shock value either. GOAT is one of 2016’s most powerful and eye-opening films so far, with such honest and believable performances by Schnetzer and Jonas. I really believed that these two were brothers while watching the movie — they nailed it and I loved seeing the journey that both went through in GOAT, from the brutal hazing, to the stunning and fitting conclusion that wraps up the film. “Welcome to Hell Week, Goats!”