Game of Death (2017)
game of death | sebastien landry | laurence morais-lagace | edouard h. bond | sam earle | victoria diamond | emelia hellman | game | thriller | france | canada | united states | catherine saindon | erniel baez | nick serino | thomas vallieres | jane hackett | steve godin
Film: Game of Death
Director: Sebastien Landry and Laurence Morais-Lagace
Writer: Edouard H. Bond, Sebastien Landry and Laurence Morais-Lagace
Starring: Sam Earle, Victoria Diamond and Emelia Hellman
This was a movie that I heard about a few years ago when it was making its festival rounds. I wanted to see it, but from everything I was gathering it was tough going finding distribution. Marknado talked about seeing it last year when it hit VOD so I knew that when I got a chance, I could finally see this. I was glad to see this was picked up by Shudder where I watched it.
Synopsis: kill or be killed is the golden rule of the Game of Death. Sucks for seven millennials who ignored that rule. Now each one's head will explode unless they kill someone. Will they turn on each other or let the game win?
I believe that synopsis does a solid job in giving the premise of this movie. To delve a bit more into this, we start with a cool title sequence that is done in the vein of a game you would see on Sega Genesis or the Super Nintendo. It then takes us to see the room of Tom (Sam Earle). I think we get a good idea that he's intelligent, but odd from what we see there. The last images are that he has an inhaler for asthma, a gun and he's sitting on his bed masturbating. From what we learn he does this a lot.
We then shift over to his friends who are hanging out by the pool. There is his sister of Beth (Victoria Diamond) who is messaging him to come over. There is Ashley (Emelia Hellman) who is dating Matthew (Thomas Vallieres). There is also Mary-Ann (Catherine Saindon) and Kenny (Nick Serino). They are your typical millennials who are drinking, smoking and partying without a care in the world. Joining them a bit later is Tyler (Erniel Baez) who has a drug kit and he's a pizza delivery driver. Tom also joins them.
Something else I want to point out here is the movie establishes that they like to play different games. The focal one of the movie is discovered by Ashley while she is messing around with Matt. It is called the Game of Death. It is set up similar to a board game, but it has an electronic screen that would see with older school hand-held games. They bring it out to play. The instructions are the same that begin the movie and give the basic premise. To start, they all put a finger on a skull and press start. It pricks their finger, taking a bit of their blood that goes into the centerpiece. They're then told they need to kill 24 people to end the game or everyone who is playing has to die. A timer then starts.
Tyler freaks out about it poking his finger and see that he's a bit of a conspiracy theorist. They go back to partying and things take a turn when Matt's head explodes. The others that see it think that someone shot him. They flee into the house to call the police. Their screaming draws their creepy, old neighbor, Steve Godin. Tom takes him at gunpoint, thinking he killed Matt. The problem is that he doesn't have a gun.
While they figure out what to do with this old man, Kenny's head explodes. Tom realizes what the game is forcing them to do. He then shoots the old man and the number goes down again. The surviving members need to make a choice, kill or be killed. Tom has made his decision and Beth seems to agree with him. This starts a killing spree that will change the lives of everyone they encounter.
That should get you up to speed while expanding on the synopsis given. I'll be honest, I wanted to see this movie, but wasn't necessarily sure how it would be. It is better than I was expecting. That isn't to say that it isn't problematic still. To start with the positives, I love the opening sequence with the old school looking video game. When I started to be a gamer, this was the era. I have a soft spot still for games like this. There is also a cool montage in the middle where they incorporate this along with other types of animation that worked for me as well. It is safe to say, I dig the premise with this game that feels like Jumanji. It is an adult version of that with a simpler concept in theory of kill or be killed.
To get into what I find problematic, I don't like any of the characters. Tom is a psychopath, which makes a lot of sense and that actually works for me. We aren't supposed to like him. Beth and him have a weird relationship, which also works for what the movie needs. Ashley and Tyler start off as typical millennials, but they have this change about halfway through. Mary-Ann and Kenny seem like nice people. Matt is the only one who doesn't have any redemption in my eyes. Regardless, I don't care about any of them in the end and it almost seems like that is what the movie wants us to feel for Ashley and Tyler which is fine. The problem is that I feel like this for the rest of the group as well.
Going along with this idea is where they end up. During the buildup, I thought what I would do. My idea was a retirement home. I know how bad it sounds, but if I decided to survive, I would go somewhere like that. This movie doesn't do that but goes somewhere similar. The logic that Tom uses makes sense. There is a character they encounter there that makes me feel bad. This did build tension for me in an odd way and was effective if I'm going to be honest.
Where I think I'll go next would then be the acting. I've started to lay out my thoughts on the characters. I think the acting is solid. Earle fits this character of Tom where I believe he could be him. The same could be said for Diamond. Hellman, Saindon, Baez, Serino and Vallieres are all much of the same. I had no issues with the acting and think it is believable for who they are plus the rest of the cast rounded this movie out for what was needed in my opinion.
Next I want to go to the effects. This was something I was impressed with that they went practical for a lot of it. I think that the blood has a good color and consistency. The gore we get looks solid as well. There is a bit of CGI when it comes to the some of the splatter. Not enough to ruin this movie for me, but I noticed it. The cinematography also looks good and I’ll give credit once more to the animated sequences we get. I love there are a few styles blended together and they work well in my opinion.
Then last the thing would be the soundtrack. I enjoyed what they were doing here as well. I thought it fit the scenes, especially in helping to ramp up the tension. This would be another one that I’m going to see if I can pick up. The party sequences are fine, but it is mostly during the climax. There is also this French song that is used. At first it didn’t fit, but seeing this is a co-production with France, that makes sense why it is here. I thought this works well with what the movie needed.
In conclusion, I think this movie has an interesting concept. It isn’t completely original, but I do think this does well in doing something a bit different with it. Setting it with the group of characters we get helps. Many of them don’t have redeemable qualities and for the ones that do, we don’t get that until later in the movie. I think this is a bit problematic for me though. The acting is good aside from that. I only have slight issues with some of the CGI. The practical effects are good along with the soundtrack. With that said, I think I would rate this as an above average film. Not great, but I think if you have Shudder it is worth a viewing.
My Rating: 7 out of 10