Salem Horror Fest 2023: Privileged Frat Boys Beware! Guys At Parties Like It Review

I don’t have many trigger warnings when it comes to horror films. Hell, if you go through my illustrious catalog of articles, I’m sure you’d probably assume that I’ll watch and discuss just about anything. That assumption isn’t incorrect, but I still have my preferences, and I often hesitate when a film deals heavily with the subject of sexual assault. The trailer for Salem Horror Fest film Guys at Parties Like It was a film made me wince when I first saw it. The idea of frat parties and brutalization doesn’t exactly sit well with me, and I even asked festival runner Kay Lynch about the film prior to seeing it, who convinced me to trust her with as little as a raised eyebrow and a pursed lip. To that effect, I’ll never question Kay’s programming decisions again.  

The poster for Guys At Parties Like It shows a bloodied up Mary with Brad and Tony on her left and right while a fire rages on a house underneath
Courtesy of Mattioli Productions

While Guys at Parties Like It isn’t without its challenges, it’s much heavier on Mary’s defense than its premise and first trailer suggest. Introducing us to college fraternity pledge Brad (Anthony Notarile) getting hot-and-heavy with co-ed Trixie (Jaqueline O’Kelly) when she asks him his fantasy. As if Pavlovian, Brad begins getting aggressive with Trixie until she is overwhelmed to where she can’t help but cry out for him to stop. Tension sets in as the mood pauses, and Trixie begins to berate Brad’s tactics, heightening sharply when Brad whimsically smiles and musters up his best Tyler Durden to have Trixie hit him in the face before forcing her to with the threat of death. 

As far as introductions go, Guys at Parties Like It creates an air of uncertainty in the viewer. Without a doubt, it becomes reliant on the repulsive tactics of vile men who want to assert their dominance over whomever they can. This is shown in a multitude of ways throughout the film, with oppressive language and dialogue being slinged at any character that isn’t a cis white man. It then shifts into violence, at first as a form of release in those early moments, leaving the viewer completely turned around by what they think they’re getting from the film and discovering a consequence-heavy monster movie—one where a creature attempts to lock a woman in a tower and she must escape.

Resetting with Mary (Monica Garcia Bradley), the audience gets the fresh perspective of a new character away from the debacle of the opening scene. Mary prepares for a frat party while her roommate watches, and the context for the film is unveiled. Digressing into a seemingly meta moment between the characters by offering pseudo-commentary on eye-rollingly biased phrases like “Is that what you’re wearing?” and “Try not to party too hard,” things men are seldom told, surmised as “boys-being-boys,” and often used as manipulation tactics when trying to appear as the victim in sexual assault cases.  

Mary looks distressed with blood on her cheek
Courtesy of Mattioli Productions

When we next see Mary, it’s made known that she has already retreated to the bushes of the Delta Delta Chi house to vomit and continues to drink and party rather hard. Cliquey chatter about Mary’s promiscuous appetite becomes the forefront, and the audience gets a handle on her reputation among both the men and women at the party. Dancing with Brad very closely and enjoying her evening, the themes of Guys at Parties Like It start to develop by denoting the double standards women are expected to adhere to. 

Revealed that the party is a precursor to a traditional hazing ritual for fraternity pledges. If Brad doesn’t lose his virginity by the time the party ends, he’ll have to submit to a dehumanizing act to get into the frat. As the clock ticks on Brad’s fate, his fraternity brother Tony (Pablo Sandstrom) urges Brad to take a more aggressive approach to avoid the hazing. Mary stops his forceful efforts but soon finds herself trapped behind locked doors in the frat house and begins turning her attempted violation into an increasingly volatile and violent night for anyone attending the party when she fights back. The circumstances spiral out of Brad and Tony’s control, turning them into barbarous monsters capable of incredible savagery.

Character choices in Guys at Parties Like It are occasionally strange. The men in the film are all toxic, terrible, and considerably loathsome. For reference, the most likable might be Kyle (Jackson Trent), and he’s still sleazily posting sex tapes occurring in the house to online forums. Another instance comes from Mary’s gay best friend, Connor (Yuhua Ou). Connor serves as sort of the catalyst for Mary’s presence at the party but furthers the agenda of the frat by pushing Mary into the situation that leads her upstairs with Brad. Some friend he turns out to be. In another moment at the end of the film, the character is placed in a head-scratching scenario, but at least it appears voluntary. In this case, Connor embodies the frat’s “bros before hoes” motto, leaving his priorities a bit of a mystery. That said, this must be one hell of a frat that literally no one ever considers the alternative of just living in the dorms even once.

A Shirtless Brad placces his hand on Tony's shoulder in Guys At Parties Like IT
Courtesy of Mattioli Productions

The women in the film aren’t always better. A referenced truth-or-dare moment that may have sparked an attraction between Trixie and Mary leaves Trixie vulnerable to hate-speech rhetoric. Yet, Trixie still attempts to look out for Mary, despite the pointed dialogue of gay bashing versus slut-shaming that has gone on between them. Still, that’s more than we can say for the aforementioned Connor. When the dialogue works, it almost feels like a blend of Kevin Williamson’s sharpness via Tarantino-tinged vulgarity. It’s sometimes brazenly shocking but feels more realistic than anyone wants to admit.  

Characters aside, the acting still really works. Anthony Notarile’s boyish charm combines the look of an innocent lamb with the razor-sharp fangs of a wolf in disguise. He’s able to change his demeanor on a dime, which adds to the audience’s reaction and the story’s elements of privilege determining accountability. Pablo Sandstrom’s rendition of Tony is equally maniacal but more open about it. He’s pure evil and doesn’t try to hide it. And, finally, Monica Garcia Bradley is the kind of strong, competent, and confident female lead that we need in horror. Bradley provides Mary with the right blend of attitude and anxiety that suggests a new-age Sidney Prescott, and when she’s not on the screen, we’re deathly concerned for her character’s well-being.  

Brad bleeds from the nose and mouth in Guys At Parties Like It
Image Courtesy of Mattioli Productions

Guys at Parties Like It also succeeds in other ways. While it can be a bit too on-the-nose at times, its scathing commentary on the diminishment of and institutionalized violence against women is especially apropos, specifically when considering the latter is presented as a time-honored tradition. The short-term appearance of a police officer (Steve Wolf), who just so happens to be a legacy of the fraternity, helps showcase the hallowed history of Delta Delta Chi’s pledge night and the idea that this hazing ritual has created nothing more than a contentious cycle of violence and shame, now doted upon fondly by those who arrived on the other side.  

On the former side of that conversation, Guys at Parties Like It doesn’t shy away from derogatory language, especially when it tears down cultures outside of the privileged cis white male perspective to make its sardonic point. Having been created by Queer filmmakers and trans producer A.J. Mattioli, there’s clearly an underlying irony. The result is a modicum of realism for youthful indifference, social prejudice, and rampant misogyny, making Mary’s circumstances feel much more dire as things get out of control.  

Mary stands in a kitchen screaming in Guys At Parties Like It
Image Courtesy of Mattioli Productions

For all of the assault dynamics of the film, Guys at Parties Like It is exclusively about Mary trying to flee the sickening situation Brad and Tony are forcing upon her. Many will find their stomachs churning by the sheer uncomfortable nature of the film’s framework. Still, the audience cannot help but become absorbed by Mary’s plight while she struggles to escape the detestable viciousness surrounding her. The actors do a great job providing this dynamic, creating an alarming, anxiety-inducing experience. Plus, the violent deaths and subsequent gore factors are of such a jaw-dropping extreme nature that the film’s revengeful portions are entirely satisfying. Consider it The Hunting Ground meets Last House on the Left (1972).  

Overall, Guys at Parties Like It is smart and compelling, even if the subject matter is dark and difficult. The film won’t be for everyone and obviously comes with its subjective trigger warnings. The slight story peculiarities, non-inclusive language, and moments of extreme discomfort may cause people to shy away. However, for a film about frat-party rape culture that could have traveled down multiple exploitative avenues, filmmakers Colton David Coate and Micah Coate traverse an extraordinarily narrow line to create something as equally disturbing as it is enjoyable to see a bunch of a**holes get what they deserve. Horror fans who enjoy their bloody carnage with real-world commentary will like the distressing unease of the Coates’ film.  

Guys at Parties Like It played as a part of Salem Horror Fest on April 29. The movie is currently touring the festival circuit and can be seen next at Crimson Screen Horror Film Fest May 19-21. 

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Written by Sean Parker

Living just outside of Boston, Sean has always been facinated by what horror can tell us about contemporary society. He started writing music reviews for a local newspaper in his twenties and found a love for the art of thematic and symbolic analysis. Sean joined Horror Obsessive at it's inception, and is currently the site's Creative Director. He produces and edits the weekly Horror Obsessive podcast for the site as well as his interviews with guests. He has recently started his foray into feature film production as well, his credits include Alice Maio Mackay's Bad Girl Boogey, Michelle Iannantuono's Livescreamers, and Ricky Glore's upcoming Troma picture, Sweet Meats.

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