‘GAME OF DEATH’ Review
With the clock ticking,
is life worth living?
Make a choice, you or I;
without decision – one will die.
In this quest, some are left behind.
This game will blow your mind.
So goes the opening crawl of the movie, with an credit sequence designed as an 8-bit game cinematic, replete with awesome, lo-fi music to match. It perfectly sets the tone for one of the strangest experiences you’re bound to have this year. It also describes exactly what’s about to transpire — it’s the only instruction included with a seemingly Japanese electronic board game discovered by some partying teens. The only other info provided is that all players must put their finger on these ac-plug looking skulls on the board to start, and the game stops when all the kills indicated on the board to win are extinguished, or all the players are dead. The number is 24. If nobody is killed by the time this timer runs out, one of the players will be executed.
The board pricks their fingers to begin and appears to absorb their blood. It seems like a cruel joke, but they learn this is real pretty quickly. Two “couples” — Tom (Sam Earle) and Beth (Victoria Diamond), and Ashley (Emelia Hellman) and Tyler (Erniel Baez Duanes)– on opposing sides of the argument to kill people, are the main characters here. One ends up in pursuit of the other cat-and-mouse style. Things get pretty fucked up.
This is a feature that began as a web series and was edited into a feature (it’s still listed as a TV series with 1 episode on IMDB). It wasn’t entirely clear to me if this was actually released in an episodic format online or if that was the initial intention. After clarification from one of the directors, the series is coming soon on a new platform. I’d be interested to see what this film was actually culled from, because what SOUNDS like a bad idea (ahem, Phantasm: Ravager) actually really works here somehow. The movie is fairly abstract and light on story, so instead of getting introspective and morally complex it just…well, goes for it. It’s visceral, bold, and it wastes zero time.
Canadians Laurence “Baz” Morais and Sebastien Landry have made their feature debut as a team, and they come from one of my favorite talent pools: commercials. Their respective Vimeo pages showcase a lot of creative, unique stuff, and they’ve certainly learned how to visually craft something interesting. Game of Death not only looks better than most low budget horror efforts, it looks professional. Mixing different sources and aspect ratios, the beginning of the film certainly showcases some lush photography. This movie practically doubles as a demo reel in terms of what these guys are capable of. The plentiful effects on display are also fantastic, with a blend of occasional CG and a ton of splatterrific practical work. There are a couple of head explosions that are up there with the very best, if you’re into that sort of thing (I am). These guys have found a place in my heart next to Astron-6. God bless you, Canada.
Sex. Drugs. Party games. Humor. Animation. Video games. Surrealism. Existentialism. An endless supply of gore. Manatees. What does it all mean? I have no clue, but I so enjoyed experiencing it. Those in search of a movie with exposition and explanations should avoid, but this is a genre title that holds nothing back and is unapologetic about it. It’s a twisted, disturbing, funny, strange movie. It’s BALLSY, and it’s fucking great.
Game of Death is available on VOD in April, with a TBA on the full digital series. We’ll keep you posted with dates.
Lean, mean, funny, low budget, balls-out horror.
Perhaps a bit too lean in terms of story and character.