14th Jul2020

‘Game of Death’ DVD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Erniel Baez D, Victoria Diamond, Sam Earle, Emelia Hellman, Catherine Saindon, Nick Serino, Thomas Vallieres | Written by Edouard Bond, Philip Kalin-Hajdu, Sebastien Landry, Laurence Baz Morais | Directed by Sebastien Landry, Laurence Baz Morais

[NOTE: With the film out now on DVD in the US from Cleopatra Entertainment, here’s a reposting of our review of Game of Death from its Horror on Sea screening way back in January 2019]

A hard-partying pack of teens come across a mysterious vintage game and can’t resist giving it a try. They each place a thumb on it and suddenly, they all get pricked, their blood running and pooling into the game. A clock lights up, counting down. At the end of the countdown, one of the teens dies – in a rather spectacular way. The countdown begins again. The game instructs the teens to kill or be killed. Whatever the case, someone will die by the time each countdown ends, and it can either be one of them, or… well, anyone else. This is not great news for anyone who lives remotely nearby as the teens have no choice but to embark on the mother of all killing sprees.

Starting with a bang, literally, Sebastien Landry and Laurence Baz Morais’ film is easily described as the Jumanji of horror (much as Beyond the Gates was also dubbed – but believe me THIS is the real Jumanji of horror), however in reality its much more than that. Yes, the parallels with the aforementioned kids film and its sequel are warranted – for all three films deal with a board game impacting on the players who take on the challenge; players who are essentially tricked into playing when all they want to do is pack up the game and go home. Game of Death is the most extreme case of “play or suffer the consequences” seen in these kinds of films – to not play equals death. A consequence that affords the film some of it’s grisliest deaths…

However Game of Death takes not only the consequences of playing the game to grisly extremes, it also has a lot to say about the current political climate. In so much as the films protagonists all think they are in the right and what they are doing is for the greater good – much like the way that both the politcal right and political left think they are in the right, when in reality the truth is somewhere inbetween. The film also touches on the self-centred instagram-loving, snapchatting, “me first” generation – that are so focused on themselves that they’ll happily run over and through (in this case literally) anyone and anything that gets in their way.

What surprises about Game of Death – apart from the ridiculous amount of splatter – is the darkly, blacker-than-black, comedy that walks a fine line between satirical and farcical. And the use of mixed media really reinforces that. The hyper-active mix of animation, computer graphics and video gaming, with a kick-ass soundtrack is at once a bombarding of the senses and respite from the excessive amounts of death and destruction that the film inflicts on the audience. It’s that particular extended sequence – when our protagonists go on their killing sprees – which like a look into the minds of the very teens that feature in Game of Death. Think the hyper-active nature of Natural Born Killers but taken almost to the point of ridicule, poking fun at the detractors of video games (and how games like COD are breeding a generation of killers, as if) and backing up the argument at the same time! Again, its all such a fine line… A line that Landry and Morais seem to have mastered to perfection!

An assault on the senses – at once graptesque and compelling – that showcases just how and why Canada is THE home of genre filmmaking, Game of Death is a fantastic example of genre filmmaking as a metaphor. This is Natural Born Killers for millenials, just as potent and just as powerful: offering comment on todays vision of youth, societical views on violence, and the desensitzing of a generation.

**** 4/5

Game of Death is released on DVD today courtesy of Cleopatra Entertainment.


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