Rated R, 96 minutes
The harrowing, well-acted "Goat" explores the dark side of college fraternity hazing. This anti-frat film is "Animal House" turned on the side of its head, and you won't be laughing at many of the things the pledges, called "goats," must endure to be a part of a well-respected frat. Nineteen-year-old Brad (Ben Schnetzer, superb) is a new college student and wants desperately to fit in. Taking a cue from his older brother, Brett (Nick Jonas), Brad decides to pledge a fraternity. At first, it's all parties and girls, but as Brad enters into the final stretch of the pledging ritual-known as hell week, things take a violent, humiliating turn. What occurs in the name of brotherhood tests both boys and their relationship in brutal ways. Directed by Andrew Neel ("New World Order") and co-written by Neel with David Gordon Green and Mike Roberts, it's a compelling, behind-the-screens and very serious look at the hazing that goes on in fraternities across the U.S. There are a couple of predictable twists and turns in the screenplay, and the weak climax hurts the film a little, yet it's superbly acted by "Snowden's" Schnetzer and as his big brother by blood and in the frat house, pop singer Jonas shows he has some acting chops too. "Goat" is difficult to watch to see the abuse afflicted on these poor, unsuspecting souls, who are looking for like-minded friendship to help them make it through their college years, but you won't be able to look away, entirely either. Also, James Franco, who also co-produced the film, gives himself third billing for a film in which he has a single-scene cameo as a douche bag, creepy older frat brother. The entertaining "Goat" sheds light on the abusive hazing techniques employed by the frats, though it doesn't fully explore any effective long-term solutions; understandably, fraternities themselves are unlikely to endorse the film anytime soon. "Goat" is also a compelling reminder that sometimes the nice guys don't need a frat to make them honorable. Worth a look.