Eye For Film >> Movies >> Elevator Game (2023) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Think that a film about people riding up and down in an elevator sounds dull? The great thing about having a film within a film is that you can say so, and make your excuses up front. Rebekah McKendry’s latest horror tale follows a group of YouTubers whose show, Nightmare On Dare Street, is struggling and at risk of losing its sponsor. To survive, they need to turn around a complete new episode in just two days. When new intern Ryan (Gino Anania) suggests that they try the Elevator Game, they figure that they’ll just have to do their best to make it as scary as they can. As it turns out, that won’t be much of a struggle.
On the 3rd of June, 2006, 16-year-old Hirosuke Ichikawa was wheeling his bike backwards out of an elevator when a sudden systems failure led it to lurch upwards with its doors still open, killing him. It was an incident which shocked Japan and, although the cause was successfully pinpointed and the responsible parties held to account, it resulted in widespread fear of using elevators. The Elevator Game appears to have emerged from efforts to process this, and though it is given a different origin in this film, the rules of the ritual are much the same.
They’re too complicated to set out here, but the gist of it is the game involves entering an elevator in a building at least ten stories tall at a time when no-one else is around, pressing the buttons in a certain order and, if a ghost gets in with you, keeping eyes closed and completely ignoring her. Success means getting access to another dimension, perhaps the land of the dead. Failure means getting ripped to pieces.
The stakes are raised for our heroes by the fact that the building which they break into to carry out the ritual is one where a girl has previously gone missing when experimenting with it (the audience being made privy to her story at the start). Of course it emerges that Ryan has a connection to her, but equally important is the connection which she had to a member of the established team. As this part of the story is playing out, Ryan grows unexpectedly close to the team’s self-described research nerd, Chloe (Verity Marks), so that when things start to go wrong, he finds himself torn (and not in the aforementioned literal way).
That the film has a real supernatural element is established early on. Appropriately, it draws heavily on Japanese tradition, from the long black hair which covers her face to the contorted, lurching way in which she moves. What’s more interesting is the way the story plays out, keeping the elevator central to the plot but expanding into the spaces around it. McKendry handles the Japanese-style apprehension and sense of helplessness with skill, and the bonds between the characters prove less superficial than they might initially appear, making it easier to feel for them.
It’s not a challenging piece of work and there’s nothing particularly original in it, but next time you find yourself alone in an elevator, especially if it’s late at night, it will creep back into your thoughts and make you wonder whether you dare to press a few more buttons, or whether, instead, you’re going to get out at the next floor and run.Reviewed on: 13 Sep 2023