“You still don’t know what the surprise is yet, do you?” Fig (Georgina Campbell) asks her pal from college Pete (Tom Stourton), well into a weekend celebration of his 31st birthday in “All My Friends Hate Me.” The question sounds more like a threat than the playful tease it’s likely intended as after Pete has become disillusioned by the people he thought he knew so well. It’s been a few years since he’s seen them, living abroad to work at a refugee camp and while his girlfriend Sonia (Charly Clive) has some reservations about the weekend, knowing his ex Claire (Antonia Clark) will be there, Pete couldn’t be more excited to see the old gang from uni, though the air gradually wheezes out of the balloon as everything about the occasion just seems a bit off.
If you didn’t think Andrew Gaynord’s feature debut had the potential for a horror film already, the opening title card dropped onscreen like a guillotine makes things clear, but Pete is the last one to know he’s in one, having his suspicions as he has to practically pull teeth to get directions to his friend George’s manor in the British countryside and finds that no one’s there when he arrives to an eerily empty house. Things actually get worse when Fig, George, Claire and their irascible pal Archie (Graham Dickson) finally do show up, with an unexpected guest named Harry (Dustin Demri-Burns) who is bestowed the spare sofa bed for the weekend after cracking them up when they stopped by the local pub by challenging farmers from the area to rap battles. When Harry is mostly having laughs at Pete’s expense after his arrival, the weekend starts to become a nightmare, not even considering the bad karaoke renditions of Wet Wet Wet’s “Love is All Around” and the hunting trips Pete wants no part of, and with Sonia unable to join him at the manor as soon as hoped, he has no one to confide in as he feels he no longer know the people he was once closest to.
It would’ve been enough for “All My Friends Hate Me” to be the delicious black comedy that co-writers Stourton and Tom Palmer set up in its first 20 minutes as Pete thinks he’s being gaslit and Gaynord films the manor as if he’s shooting inside a haunted house. But the already strong premise gives way to something even more interesting when there is real fear for Pete that he has outgrown his friends and any nostalgia he felt might’ve walking into Cleave Hill Manor falls away when he’s reminded that he might not have been someone he liked too much 10 years earlier. Stourton is as sharp in playing Pete as he is writing for him, carrying himself a bit above those around him while presenting as self-effacing and besides the interloping Harry, which Demri-Burns has a ball with playing, the quartet of friends feel genuine enough that there’s a real sense of betrayal when Pete starts to feel left out. Even with the audience in on things in a way that Pete can’t be, “All My Friends Hate Me” is full of surprises, chief among them being far more provocative than it would seem to have any right to be.