Game Of Death


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Game Of Death
"As with most of the best games, the concept is simple; the genius is in the execution."

A group of teenagers enjoying a break together in a country house. A mysterious old board game that promises to scare. Blood, gore and outrage galore. Welcome to the Game of Death.

As with most of the best games, the concept is simple; the genius is in the execution. Place your fingers on one of the skulls, the teenagers are instructed by an electronic voice. A rolling noise is heard and a number appears on the tiny central screen. 24. This, says the game, is the number of people who must be killed, or one player will die every hour. Whilst the teens look around, confused, thinking that some other pieces or a manual must be missing, one of their number's head explodes, splattering them with blood.

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There's screaming, panic, the hurling of accusations, everything you might expect; but in this 73 minute film, there's no time wasting. Preppy rich kid Tom (Sam Earle) immediately asserts that the game has done this and advises them all to get started on looking for people to kill. Soon he has won over his sister Beth (Victoria Diamond) - seen in the intro scenes giving him a lap dance - to his cause, but the others hold out, some disbelieving, others arguing that it would be better for them to kill themselves than "innocent people." Pizza delivery boy Tyler (Erniel Baez Duenas) - supplier of the party's drugs - and good girl Ashley (Emelia Hellman) determine to try to stop the murderous pair, but that won't be easy in the course of the rampage that follows.

Cut down from a web series, Game Of Death dispenses with all the usual padding found in films like this and presents us with the bare essentials, attaining in the process a certain purity in line with the swift moral conclusions formed by its protagonists. It pauses only for character-building vignettes: a kindly police officer who's sharper than she looks chatting about (and to) her dog as she tries to control a volatile situation; a musical interlude in which Tom and Beth embrace in front of ravishing scenery before heading to a hospital to slaughter those they believe won't have long to live anyway. Like Tarantino's Death Proof, and in keeping with the theme of rich kids getting their hands dirty, this is highly skilled filmmaking dressed up to look like trash. Some of its goofs are too odd to be accidental. It looks rough in places but is framed with disproportionate skill in others.

The performances here are also pared down, keeping everyone's attention on the moment. No effort is made to make us like these young people, who are obnoxious even before they turn violent, but they hold out attention nonetheless. Whilst Ashley asks soul-searching questions about the meaning of life, Tom proceeds as if there is no tomorrow because, of course, there might not be, and it's often easy to think that way at that age anyway. The pressure on the teens to act fast places them in a different time frame, almost a different universe from the more thoughtful older characters and the hospital patients who are clinging to precious final days. Everything is now.

Inventively condensed backstory - blink and you'll miss it - and Olivier Guillemette's superb editing give the film a rare joie de vivre. There are ample B-movie homages for connoisseurs of trash, some cracking cheesy dialogue and a cute final scene dealing with fate of the game itself, but it's the style, rather than the substance, that makes this Fantasia pick a winner.

Reviewed on: 15 Jul 2017
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Game Of Death packshot
Seven millenials discover an obscure electronic board game and decide to test their wits against it. When it tells them they need to kill 24 people in the next 24 hours, mayhem ensues.
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Director: Sebastien Landry, Laurence Morais-Lagace

Writer: Edouard H Bond, Philip Kalin-Hajdu, Sebastien Landry, Laurence Morais-Lagace

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

Year: 2017

Runtime: 73 minutes

Country: Canada, US, France

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