Fantastic Fest 2012
By Don Simpson | September 24, 2012
Directors: Jason Lapeyre, Robert Wilson
Writer: Jason Lapeyre
Starring: Siam Yu, Gage Munroe, Michael Friend, Aidan Gouveia, Mackenzie Munro, Alex Cardillo, Dyson Fyke, Spencer Howes, Andy Reid, Kolton Stewart, Richard Nguyen, Eric Hanson, Alex Wall
I Declare War interested me mainly because I used to play war as a kid. It might have been those hours in the forest pretending to kill and be killed that made me what I am today, a gun-hating pacifist — but that’s another story for another time. Let’s just say that sometimes the neighborhood kids would take the game much too seriously; real blood was often shed, sometimes bones were even broken. When kids started showing up with authentic nunchuks and throwing stars, that is when things started to get really hairy. Most importantly, our parents were completely clueless. We were alone in the woods for hours on end; but as long as we got home before our curfews, no one seemed to care what we did. Nonetheless, that was the closest to Lord of the Flies that I ever care to get.
That is exactly what happens when a bunch of kids get a bunch of fake guns (and grenades) and take to the woods. Power struggles develop and bounds of friendship are tested; kids are quickly divided into followers and leaders, rule-abiders and anarchists, strategists and violent beasts. The kids in I Declare War take their battle quite seriously, so much so they can visualize real bullets shooting from their weapons. However, their playful world of make-believe suddenly turns real when blood is actually shed. The reality of their situation only causes the kids to take the battle all the more seriously, as if they still firmly believe that no one will really get hurt.
Jess (Mackenzie Munro) is the most intriguing character. As the lone girl, she exemplifies the cool, calm and collected approach to war. She is the master strategist of the group, keenly plotting a scheme that satisfies her own motives (to impress a boy); but that selfishness is really her only weakness (luckily for her the boys are too stupid to ever notice). Compared to Jess, the other thinker of the kids — PK (Gage Munroe) — seems like a total hack who never clearly contemplates the pros and cons of each scenario; he never has an exit strategy. Jess is also able to use her feminine wiles to coerce most of the boys into doing her bidding; in other words, Jess is the one weapon that the boys are utterly defenseless against.
I Declare War brilliantly captures the naïveté of adolescence, specifically the inability to separate reality from make-believe. The kids have created a dangerously violent world in which there are no lines designating what is too far. Rules used to keep the kids in check, but rules only work if everyone abides by them; just as loyalty, love, and friendship only bind people together when those feelings are authentic.