MURDER BURY WIN is the directorial debut from Michael Lovan which centers around three friends who receive a mysterious offer after their crowdfund fails for their board game creation. The film, which will have its Texas Premiere at the Austin Film Festival tonight, stars Mikelen Walker (It’s Just a Gun), Erich Lane (“Criminal Minds”), Henry Alexander Kelly (Mystic), Craig Cackowski (“Drunk History”), and Brian Slaten (“Chicago P.D.”).

To best describe the plot, I’ll turn to the official synopsis: “Three friends have created a board game, MURDER BURY WIN, and they think it has what it takes to become a bestseller on the indie charts. When their attempt to crowdfund fails, a mysterious man makes them an offer: he will publish their game on the condition that he takes credit as the sole creator and owner. After a dispute over the gaming rights leaves them with a body on their hands, the young men realize how suspiciously like murder the freak accident appears. Now, with a few options remaining, they look to their game for guidance. The premise of their game? How to murder someone and get rid of the body.

The film opens with our introduction to our three game designers: Chris (Mikelen Walker), Adam (Erich Lane), and Barrett (Henry Alexander Kelly). Each of them has a distinct personality which helps them to stand out from one another, with Adam being the more fearless, psychotic of the bunch, Chris being the middle ground in terms of trying to appease both Adam and Barrett, and Barrett being the moral compass of the group. After finding out that their crowdfunding efforts to get their game, Murder Bury Win, off the ground failed, they receive a mysterious call from an unknown person with directions to meet him at his remote cabin. When they arrive, they are shocked to learn that the mysterious voice belongs to none other than their board game hero, V.V. Stubbs, played by Craig Cackowski. Cackowski does a superb job of showing just how slimy and opportunistic Stubbs is, going so far as to offer the three friends a deal that he’ll publish their game while also stripping them of any credit related to it. Though the acting ranges from more experienced to amateur-like, all the characters (and corresponding performances) mesh well together, especially in regards to the interaction between the three friends.

(L-R) Henry Alexander Kelly, Mikelen Walker, Erich Lane in MURDER BURY WIN

At its core, the plot of the film centers around a series of unfortunate events that take place after our protagonists find themselves involved with a dead body. Not sure where to turn to, they follow the rules they have set forth in their game, Murder Bury Win, in hopes that it will provide the answers needed to dispose of a body. As a board game player, I liked how this premise was set up and found it to be a creative and unique way to help push the narrative and form the tension that erupts between the three friends. Luckily, the film never feels too long or arduous, landing at that perfect sweet spot of 91 minutes.

I think there will be a lot for horror fans to digest when it comes to the movie, especially in terms of the gore. As the situation the three friends find themselves gets worse, so does the bloodshed. The film does have an indie feel to it, even with the use of some of the practical effects. And though I’m sure they didn’t have much of a budget to work with, director Michael Lovan was able to do a lot with what he was given. The film primarily takes place inside and on the outer perimeter of a remote cabin and Lovan more than uses that to his advantage. Woven throughout the entire film is a steady string of humor that fits in quite well due to the nonsensical situation that unfolds. As I mentioned, this film truly is a series of unfortunate events for our three friends and it will definitely elicit more than its fair share of laughs.

In all, I found MURDER BURY WIN to be a clever horror film that shows the importance of friendship and teamwork, while also showing the complexities of disposing of a dead body. The film does face some bumps in the road that it needs to contend with, mostly in some of the acting, but for a relatively new-to-the-scene cast, they do pretty well. The plot is enjoyable and engaging and made me want to play the game, which works in the film’s favor if they ever decide to release a board game. Though the film doesn’t feature many scares, it does do its part to make sure it’s an entertaining romp, and sometimes that’s all we can ask for.

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