SXSW Film Festival Movie Review: GAME OF DEATH (2017)

If you’re anything like me, you have fond memories of gathering around a board game with close friends or family and having a good time on a rainy afternoon, Sunday evening or even fireside at a campsite.  I remember the intense burning desire that I had to have the JUMANJI board game because, holy shit, monkeys!  I mean, right? However, I can’t say that I’d say the same thing about this year’s GAME OF DEATH.

Written and directed by Sebastien Landry and Laurence Morais-Lagace, the scant 76 minute-long film follows 7 quintessential millennials who stumble upon a mysterious board game in the house that they’re partying in.  When they begin playing it, the board game draws their blood and they’ve unwittingly signed a blood oath to kill a couple dozen innocent people, lets they fall prey to the game themselves.  Cue the blood and guts, and oh lordy, there’s aplenty.

After opening with a rather stylish opening sequence the film is very quick to introduce us to our ragtag team of merry pranksters.  They’re crude, entitled and as my dear old grandmother would say “nasty young men and women”.  You’ve got your typical mishmash of teenage stereotypes present; the jock, the pretty blonde, the stoner, the angsty artsy girl and so on, pretty standard fare. The one prevailing theme is that these kids are just… not likable at all.  I could’t tell if this was an intentional decision or not, but it seemed as if we were supposed to hate these kids.  We are introduced to a few other characters, one of whom I loved, and it’s at this point that we truly realize how self-centered and obnoxious they are.  You almost want to see them get their come-uppance, and that’s not necessarily something that I enjoy in horror films.  I want to sympathize with our main cast of players, but I didn’t have that with these kids.  I sympathize with their victims and not with them, and while it’s difficult to say much more without spoiling anything, I’ll say that this lack of connection lessens the impact of the final act of the film.

There are two things that the film absolutely has going for it though: gore and style. Gorehounds will be very pleased with the film as it’s absolutely blood soaked.  I’m always curious going into films like this and I was very impressed.  It made for a very fun film, and I guess if you’re gonna hate the main characters you may as well watch them die in spectacular ways, right? The style of the film is very crisp, clean and feels almost like a music video at times, which makes sense considering the directors have a background in music videos and advertising.  Some of the shots are very well crafted and there are some fun animated sequences that makes the film feel like it’s been elevated from your average independent film to something a little more.

While I could see why someone could potentially say that the film is all style and no substance, I stand to differ.  I do think that some valid points are made throughout the film, and while I won’t go down a philosophical road with a film like this, I’ll simply say that this film was everything that I wanted it to be.  I wasn’t expecting a stellar, landmark, instant-classic of a film. I was expecting a silly, gore-filled film about a board game that kills it’s victims in stupendous and exciting ways.  I got that and then some, so I can’t complain.  For God’s sake, it’s a film called GAME OF DEATH, how seriously did they want me to take it?

GAME OF DEATH had it’s World Premiere yesterday at SXSW and will be running throughout the week.  Keep an eye out for it’s VOD release soon so give it a go and be prepared for it to “blow your mind.”

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