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Award-winning film ‘HAZE’ dissects the Greek tragedy of hazing


“Who’s there?”

“Not Zach Green!”

In the fictional film HAZE, this knock-knock joke was caught on tape as an insensitive jab at student Zach Green, who tragically died from alcohol poisoning during a severe fraternity hazing ritual. The gravity of Green’s death sets the solemn undertones of the film and represents the very real consequences that hazing can potentially introduce, all in the name of brotherhood.

The film begins with dated, black-and-white photographs of fraternity members from Greek Life’s past, accompanied by a crackly recording of men singing the pledge song of their Psi Theta Epsilon fraternity. It’s a nod to the lengthy history and rich tradition in which Greek Life’s roots are secured.

The opening scene is immediately followed by a wild party at the Psi Theta Epsilon fraternity house — complete with keg stands, beer pong and bikinis — juxtaposing the supposedly cherished tradition of brotherhood with the contemporary stereotype of party-prone Greek Life.

The overall controversy developed throughout HAZE traces a lifelike divide that exists within college communities: Greek Life versus non-Greek Life. But the film reaches a deeper level when it is cleverly likened to ancient Greek mythology, intertwining the rivalry of Dionysus and Pentheus to reveal a more intricate and sophisticated storyline, epitomizing the theme of “a Greek tragedy.”

HAZE continues to follow the protagonist, freshman Nick Forest (Kirk Curran), through his adrenaline-fueled passage into Psi Theta Epsilon. Nick initially glides through the trials and tribulations of hazing, but when his biological brother Pete (Mike Blejer) leads an anti-hazing movement across campus — the movement that provoked the insensitive knock-knock joke — Nick becomes guilty by association, and his trust from the fraternity dwindles. His hazing intensifies.

There is a strong sense of irony when Nick must emotionally forfeit his relationship with his real brother in an attempt to gain entry into the brotherhood of Psi Theta Epsilon. After all, most of the pledges admitted they would do “whatever it takes” to be accepted into the fraternity.

With an elemental shakiness to the camera, the cinematography of HAZE at times simulates the impression of a home video but remains exceedingly methodical, making the grit and gore of the film theatrical and convincing. It makes you sincerely concerned for the characters who, in order to fulfill their hazing sentence, must comply with demeaning tasks or face the repulsive consequences — after all, nobody wants to drink a cup full of loogies.

HAZE doesn’t fail to touch on the humiliating practices of sorority hazing as well. The scenes are ruthless and cringe-worthy, brimming with the scandalous truths of hazing’s potential. But ultimately, the film presents itself as a platform to seriously consider the implicit challenges embedded in college years, inside or outside of Greek Life.

The producers of HAZE partnered with Fraternity and Sorority Life and BEseries to host screenings on select college campuses in attempt to raise preventative awareness about the practice of hazing. After spending a year in the film festival circuit, HAZE has received several awards including Best Film and Best Screenplay.

HAZE Teaser from David Burkman on Vimeo.

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Carleigh Oeth

Carleigh Oeth