We are seldom are best selves when we are young. More times than not, we are early Stranger things, Steve. We tease when we shouldn’t, throw stones when we are living in glass houses, and pick fights based on self-doubt or misunderstandings. Some are lucky enough to find friends they grow with. Most of us are not. So what happens when those friends who didn’t really know each other come back into each other lives after years apart? Old wounds and insecurities come roaring back. That is the premise of the paranoic psychological film All My Friends Hate Me written by Tom Palmer and Tom Stourton, who also stars.
Pete(Tom Stourton) is a nice guy. He is conscientious and serious. That doesn’t mean he can’t have fun, just that his idea of fun stems from good works. Pete likes to spend his time with people he can trust. That includes the kids he is mentoring at the refugee camp he works at and his girlfriend, Sonia. Friends he hasn’t seen in years have planned a birthday holiday for him in one of their large country homes. Understandably he is nervous about seeing them. The weekend starts rough and goes downhill rapidly as Pete questions whether everyone is out to get him or if he is part of some elaborate joke.
Nothing goes right from the beginning. He stops to help a crying dog and is almost attacked by a man living in his car. After that harrowing encounter, he gets lost and asks for directions from an older man who appears to make fun of him. Next, he arrives at the house only to find no one there. Almost everything points to a disastrous weekend. When his friends finally show up hours later, they are drunk and have a stranger named Harry in tow. Instead of apologizing for leaving Pete to fend for himself, one of them pretends the birthday invite was a joke and says they never expected him to come.
Although everyone is putting on a happy face, there is something wrong. Laughs are too forced, drinks are too enthusiastically consumed, and memories are a little too hazy. Unexpected addition Harry sometimes borders on threatening. Is he trying to replace Pete or something even scarier? Pete’s work is a huge source of pride for him, but his friends don’t want to talk about it. In fact, one of them comments about him trying to atone for his past. It’s a joke, but it informs everything about these relationships. These people don’t know each other very well despite being friends since their university days.
All My Friends Hate Me shares the same tonal universe as Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation. A group of estranged friends get together, and immediately there is a menacing vibe to the festivities. The difference here is that there is no cult, no homicidal leader, and no big reveal. The twist is everything we have seen play out was skewed by Pete, who has severe social anxiety. Beyond the fact that his friends are probably not great people, and Pete is way too in his own head to be a good friend himself, there are no monsters.
The ending of All My Friends Hate Me
One booze-fueled night after Sonia finally arrives, the group decides to play an imitation game. As the jokes get more pointed, Pete loses it and snaps at everyone. It is here that the horror of the film is revealed. There is no one out to get Pete. It is all a product of his paranoia. Pete reveals he has been carrying around guilt from an incident when he was fifteen, and he pranked a girl so incessantly he drove her to suicide. He also blurts out he intends to propose to Sonia, something he was convinced Harry would do.
He thinks Harry is the girl’s brother and is there to get revenge, but Harry is actually their friend Plank, who Pete doesn’t recognize. Pete is so caught in his delusion he has mistaken his friend for an enemy. An interaction that was meaningful to Plank and the group meant nothing to Pete because he is so self-absorbed. Everything Pete attributed to Harry’s odd behavior had reasonable explanations. At this point, we also realize Pete’s perspective has been faulty on everything. He thinks these people don’t care about him, but he isn’t asking about them either.
He doesn’t know much about their lives, having failed to keep in touch. Once that reality is highlighted, everything falls into place. He has closed himself off and moved on. He never really cared to know about anyone else. Comments everyone has made here and there find new meanings. Pete could be cruel when he was in college. He also was the life of the party in his mind. Pete probably survived by being heavily lubricated and only thought he was a laugh riot. He didn’t know about Claire’s suicide and didn’t know the simplest things about his friends’ careers. The others poke fun to show him how he is perceived. He seems self-absorbed, pretentious, and judgmental.
It isn’t just Pete who has crippling problems. They all have hangups. There’s a drunken, drugged-out mess of an elitist who uses substances to mask his pain and insecurity. He worries about finding himself and thinks Pete is snubbing his business ideas. Claire is still in love with her university crush Pete and suffers from bouts of depression. George and Fig have a marriage of convenience and desperately want it to be more. Only Harry and Sonja seem to be secure and stable. Sonia is a lifeline for Pete, and her arrival in a beam of sunlight is not coincidental.
The more this group is together, the more they devolve into their worse selves. They fall back into old habits. Birthday pranks designed to surprise are more mean-spirited and stressful than appreciated, and shooting expeditions are ugly events that do nothing for the birthday boy who likely has some PTSD from his work and doesn’t shoot. Old friends should leave each other in the past if they aren’t going to grow in the future.
That is how All My Friends Hate Me uses perception. For some, Pete is a lousy friend and deserves to be teased. For others, he is sympathetic and endures bullying. Because we have nothing but his perspective, there is no way of knowing which is entirely true. As with most things, though, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. Pete can be narcissistic, but his friends aren’t very kind either. How you view, the movie lies in how you view your own social interactions.
In the last moments, as Sonia is driving Pete home, she teases him that she wouldn’t marry him. He doesn’t laugh, and she tells him he needs to learn to take a joke. After everything he has been through, is her comment mean or revelatory? Was she serious and just pretended to joke to make the long car ride back less unpleasant? I believe she genuinely cares for him, warts and all, and wants him to be better. When you love someone, you overlook their shortcomings. Although I think the timing was poor, I think the sentiment was genuine. She will marry him, and he does need to take a joke. I’m a romantic, though.
There is a lot of symbolism to unpack in All My Friends Hate Me that becomes clear in subsequent watches. The dog represents Pete’s feeling of being trapped and whipped. These friends are the unknown man Pete comes across on the way to his party. Pete is a kind soul, and after hearing the crying dog, he wants to try to help him, but the man chases him instead. He feels such guilt for his behavior as a kid that he sees the worst in everyone. His guilt and anxiety make him expect abuse when none is coming. The goose represents the fact that he was a “silly goose” who couldn’t see the situation for what it was. Like most of us, he isn’t as kind as he thinks, and his friends aren’t as bad as they seem.
Pete has been convinced throughout the movie that something terrible is coming. The joke is Pete is his own worst enemy. Most of us are. We worry and fret about what others are thinking instead of asking. This is what happens when your insecurity has such a hold on you that it skews everything you see and hear. Perceptions shape our experiences. For most of us, those perceptions are at least partially correct. For people like Pete, though, they are seldom accurate. Those who empathize with Pete see his friends as terrible people full of their own issues. For those who think he’s obnoxious, be grateful you don’t suffer as he does.
It all comes down to one central question. Is the problem that he can’t take a joke, or his friends aren’t very funny? With friends like these, who needs enemies? All My Friends Hate Me is streaming everywhere VOD right now.
As the Managing Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre entertainment. I grew up with old-school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. My work can be found here and Travel Weird, where I am the Editor in Chief.