“HAZE” is not your typical movie about hazing. Sure, it may depict college life similarly to other college-themed movies, but what sets it apart is the exploration of choices in the lives of young adults.
Inspired by research done by the film crew as well as director David Burkman’s own experiences, “HAZE” follows Nick Forest (Kirk Curran), a college freshman in a pseudo-documentary style, as he joins a fraternity on campus following the death of a student from hazing.
The film uses the Greek tragedy “The Bacchae” by Euripides to guide the narrative and quite literally explains it to the viewer at one point. While that could have been more subtle, it helps transition the film from the slow-paced documentary style to quick, stylized art film.
That being said, the film is graphic. The pledges are urinated on, put into zip tie and plastic wrap bondage and forced to consume ridiculous amounts of alcohol: a student is raped and vomiting is a common recurrence alongside other things like binge drinking.
Throughout the process, viewers must ask themselves why students choose to put themselves through the hazing process. More importantly, what are the messages being sent to these characters to make them want to go through this?
Most viewers will either side with Nick Forest, the young freshman who understands and sees the appeal of enduring this kind of behavior, or with his brother, Pete Forest (Mike Blejer), who wants to expose the violence in hazing.
To be frank, many of these characters are not likable. Many of them are accurate representations of awful students you see at a college house party and hope that you never see outside of that one encounter. But at least that makes it feel authentic.
“HAZE” will not be for everyone. It is not a film that is representative of every student’s college experience, but it will spark conversations about college life and the choices students face.