GRIMMFEST 2017: Game of Death
7th October 2017
Kill or be killed is the golden rule of the Game of Death. Sucks for seven millennials who ignored that rule. Now each one's head will explode unless they kill someone. Will they turn on each other to survive, or will this sunny day be the last for the innocent people of their middle-of-nowhere town?
When participating in any drinking game, there’s a high chance the next day will result in an unpleasant hangover. In Sebastian Landry and Laurence Morais-Lagrace’s Game of Death, taking part in such an activity can be murder.
In a middle-of-nowhere town, seven teenagers gather for a typical party full of the usual antics: drinking, debauchery and, of course, face sitting. Things take a deadly turn when they begin to play the Game of Death, a forgotten board game which takes a small blood sample as a sign of participation. Initially dismissing the action as a mere novelty, the not so magnificent seven don’t take the games rules of ‘Kill or be killed’ seriously either – until one of the groups’ heads erupts in a scene which makes the infamous Scanners sequence look tame. From there, the rest must make the decision whether to kill each other to remain both in the game and alive, or turn their attention (and guns) to the innocents in the town.
Wasting absolutely no time in unleashing the mayhem, it’s barely ten minutes into the run-time when the first victim gets their head turned inside out. Character development isn’t a priority here, and there’s only really one of the group who remains distinctive: Tyler the delivery guy. That’s largely due to his loud, pizza themed shirt, but he’s by far the most charismatic too. The rest are more expendable than Stallone’s team of action heroes that they don’t really need names, but that’s not particularly a bad thing – Game of Death was never going to be a complex investigation into human nature. No, you’re here to see blood, and on that front it delivers in the bucket loads.
As a result of the first killing, the remaining members become instantly drenched in the red stuff, and it only becomes more of a laundry nightmare for its lean 73 minute duration. It’s all fun, games and drastically exaggerated kills for the most part, but by the third act it does become a little tiresome and senseless with no one to root for or have any reason to care if they kill each other. Fortunately, an incredibly inventive animated montage which lovingly pays homage to a plethora of early Shooter games of killing spree arrives just in the nick of time to keep things fresh, and is a definite highlight of the whole picture, along with the retro-graphic animated opening sequence. The running gag of a nature documentary on manatees is one to look out for too, and the singing sheriff raises a few laughs.
Overall though, Game of Death is a smart idea which isn’t executed to its maximum potential. Much like the reality of a house party versus the idea of one, there’s a few moments which will be spoken about the next day and you’ll mention it happened in passing to a few others, but there’s always the lingering thought it had all the ingredients to have been so much more.
Delivers on its promise of bucketloads of blood
Great retro gaming visuals
Not executed to its potential
Tiresome third act
Entirely expendable characters