The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Digital] - GAME OF DEATH | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Digital] - GAME OF DEATH

game of death review
A group of young friends are forced to play a deadly game.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Sebastien Landry, Laurence Morais-Lagace

Starring: Sam Earle, Victoria Diamond, Emelia Hellman, Catherine Saindon

game of death poster

Ever since Joel McCrea and Fay Wray were pursued through the jungle (well, the RKO backlot) by Leslie Banks' evil Count Zaroff in 1932's The Most Dangerous Game, cinema has offered multiple stories of hapless protagonists forced to go on the run as some sinister force, human or otherwise, hunts them for sport. Sebastien Landry and Laurence Morais-Lagace's Canadian indie Game of Death takes this concept and gives it a novel twist, with its protagonists forced to become the hunters themselves in order to survive.

During a party, a bunch of obnoxious 'teens' (most are of course played by actors well into their twenties) stumble across a mysterious electronic board game. Deciding to play, each member of the group follows the game's instruction to place a finger on their board, and to their surprise they each have their fingers pricked, their blood being sucked into the device. Then a number - 24 - appears on the game's LCD screen, and a ticking clock noise begins to emanate from its 8-bit speaker.

game of death review

Ignoring the game, the friends go back to drinking and acting like asshats, until one of the group begins to convulse, his face breaking out in massive boils until his head literally explodes, Scanners style. One of the group notes that the number on the game has changed to 23, and when a second teen loses their head, it reduces to 22. The game informs its unwitting players that 24, now 22, people must be killed, or each player will succumb to severe head trauma. It's kill or be killed, and the group sets off in search of victims, while debating the ethics of their actions and whether they can actually go through with taking human lives.

Game of Death's greatest strength is its pacing. At a mere 73 minutes, it certainly doesn't outstay its welcome, making it ideal fodder for a drunken, restless festival crowd, or the drunken, restless visitors cracking open pizza boxes and beer cans in your living room. Landry and Morais-Lagace don't waste any time getting into the action, and within minutes the screen, and every actor involved, is soaked in gore.

game of death review

Played for laughs, Game of Death never quite mines the sort of grand guignol entertainment of something like the Final Destination franchise, but it offers enough blackly comic moments to raise a ghoulish smirk or two. The casting brief seems to have been to find actors who resemble the sort of bratty, entitled millenials you'd most like to see die gruesome deaths. With his Richard Spencer haircut and shit-eating grin, Sam Earle as Tom, the member of the group who takes to murder the easiest, is particularly odious here, a perfect pantomime villain.

If anything, Game of Death is a tad too rushed. The premise doesn't allow for its characters to ever take a breather, but the killings could have been a bit more spaced out. The commendably distasteful climax takes place in a rest home - with the protagonists figuring they're doing the patients a service by euthanising them - which kind of feels like a convenient cheat. Of course, this is a low budget production, so it's hard to complain about its lack of scope.

game of death review

Despite its budgetary limitations, Game of Death boasts an impressive aesthetic, with some gorgeous cinematography by Simon-Pierre Gingras, tactile practical effects, a pounding synth score by Julien Mineau and some diverting animated sequences rendered in the form of an old-school 8-bit video game. It could have explored its premise in more depth, but there's certainly enough here to keep the horror hordes happy for its brief runtime.

Game of Death is on UK Digital from November 26th.