Game of Death is a great modern B-movie that entertains while our seven young adults quickly have to decide whether it is better to kill and live with the consequences or to await a gruesome death. Bloody, brutal, yet obviously flawed, this is an enjoyable jaunt.
During a party, a group of friends find a harmless looking retro board game. Deciding in their drunken haze to play the game. They unwittingly start a game that is life or death. To take 24 other lives or risk being one of those to perish. Do they do as the game says and begin to hunt innocent people or they ignore the game? Either way chaos ensues.
A refreshing concept that allows our protagonists to be the hunters instead of the hunted allows Game of Death to be another bright inclusion to a great year for horror films. It is rare to find a horror that allows almost all of the main cast to have that dark side. Even if that dark side has grown out of the need to survive.
Running at a brisk 73 minutes (a continuing trend of low budget horrors as of late to run shorter) Game of Death wastes no time in setting up the characteristics of our crew. While they are young, this bunch almost entirely are spoilt and obnoxious. This is a group of people that will have to try hard to win us over.
Also, we are promptly and violently brought to the horror in a pool side scene that will take a hile to forget. For a film that spares us on running time, it does not spare us on the gore, as there is a tone of it, in this scene alone. A great benchmark for what we are to expect for the rest of the film, with a premise that guarantees blood and gore on an almost epic level.
These horror moments work like gangbusters, but it is the humour where Game of Death falters. There just isn’t enough dark humour with the group to carry that theme and it possibly would have been better placed that when the horror starts, the comedy stops. This would allow the audience and the characters to know that they are in for a fight of their lives. Instead, we are introduced to kooky characters that the group finds along their way and while their scenes work to an extent. It feels misplaced at this point.
Our characters want to survive, they know what they have to do and when they are required to bring the drama into the horror as they do in the third act, it works so much better. A missed opportunity, to go darker instead of clinging to the comedy tropes.
Once the killing starts it doesn’t stop, almost to a point of exhaustion. We have attempted breather moments when characters are in cars, but when they begin to move locations, they get to the endgame far too soon. The 73 minutes could have been expanded another 10 to allow for more time with the characters more scope and better arcs.
That said, we do get some decent character arcs here as we see the conflicted nature in what some of the gang are going through. In the final act, they plead with each other to stop this madness. Yet fairly the rebuttal is that this is happening to innocent people, they didn’t ask for this to happen. For all of this death. This excellent piece of writing allows us to feel pity towards our protagonists despite their actions. Fear and desperation has taken over them and they see no other way to survive. The idea that they may get caught for all of the carnage they have done is now the least of their worries.
The worst thing about this great little horror film? The fact that it has taken 3 years to final get a release that it deserves. For such an original concept, it feels strange that it has taken so long to get here. Thankfully it has been well worth the wait.
The standout without a shadow of a doubt is the direction and cinematography from directors Sebastien Landry and Laurence Morais-Lagace and cinematographer Simon-Pierre Gingras. The wide lens as we watch the utter devastation of some of these scenes is truly striking. None more so than the first moment. By placing the camera far enough away. It allows for the entire group out by the pool to be in the shot and for it to take a moment or two to realise what is happening. It is a lovely touch.
However, the first person moments don’t really work as there does not appear to be a context for it other than the “game” aspect. If the character who we follow in their first person was holding a camera of some sort. Then it would work and allow a reason for that angle to be used.
Regarding the gore utilised in the film, a lot of it is practical and it is a gruesome as it gets. Though it almost ventures into Rubber territory with its nature. This is a still a joy for the genre fan with the roadside scene allowing our filmmakers to fill their boots.
The directing duo of Landry and Morais-Lagace have made their budget stretch very well here. Game of Death is certainly a film that deserves to be seen. It is also a shame that we have not seen anything feature wise since Game of Death was made. Even though the film was edited from a web-series. Hopefully with this release we will see more of them. As they are obviously two strong talents that need to be working more in the genre.
Game of Death is a fun 73 minutes of horror that will have you by the premise. This is an utterly enjoyable blood soaked ride.
Game of Death will be available on Digital Download from 26th November and can be bought here.
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