Game of Death (2017)

Seen as part of the International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival and the Phoenix Film Festival 2017.

Plot paragraph …

In the middle of small town somewhere / nowhere USA a bunch of white, well-to-do millennials sit around being bored of it all and obnoxious with it. While enjoying each other one of the couples find a dusty old Eighties-style board game, the titular Game of Death. They read the rules after starting the game and find out that when the chirpy little 8-bit screen shows 24, that is the number of people who must die to win the die. They, of course, do nothing until one of them has their head explode in a gloriously visceral fashion.

This movie appears to be a cut down version of an eight episode series directed by Sebastien Landry and Laurence Morais-Lagace and created by the French digital platform format company BlackPills. If this is true it explains a lot. As a movie Game of Death really feels like a movie chopped down from a longer piece. Much of what is presented doesn’t make sense in terms of tone and emotional pitch.

As a prime example, right at the end, we are presented with a ‘deep’ explanatory monolgue wherein the character tells us, among other things, that the only real way to “win” at life is to die and that “Death is a bonus level.”

Within the context of an eight episode series where we get to see the longer character arcs of the key players, this monologue would make sense but coming as it does in the movie after an hour of erratic madness, I was like, “What? Where did this come from? Suddenly, we’re all serious and introspective?”

Similarly, while most of the deaths are mean and brutal out of nowhere suddenly it goes all Peter Jackson goofy and silly and then we’re back to mean-spirited and brutal. It’s kinda all over the place and I kept feeling I had stepped out of the room and missed the lead-up to whatever I was watching. Consequently, while I have no idea about the TV series this was culled from as a movie Game of Death just about holds together if you don’t ask too many questions.

Having said all that the visual effects and special effects are truly outstanding. If swelling and exploding heads are your jam these are peerless head explosions for sure. Hats off, or heads off, to the team behind the visuals. Another part of the movie that I appreciated was the retro 8-bit video game credit sequence. Tres cool.

Ultimately, when the blood spray settles occasional head explosions don’t make for a great movie for me. However, if all you need is exploding heads and some scant humor, have at it.

Two word review: Visually effective.

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