Game of Death (2017) [Brooklyn Horror Film Festival 2017]

In a game where the players’ heads will explode one by one, a group of young adults has to decide if they are ready to die or kill others to survive.

Written by Edouard H. Bond, Sebastien Landry, and Laurence Morais-Lagace, adapted by Philip Kalin-Hajdu and directed by the first two, Game of Death is an interesting take on what will people do when faced with the kill or be killed dilemma. Here a group of friends face survival with odds that are increasingly against them. What they do, how they bond, who decides to take action, and who is just an observer tells a story of friendship and humanity. The film takes extreme measures to get to this but it’s interesting and entertaining as it does so. It’s a violent as can be, gore-soaked, crazy ride that goes from one death to the other at a pretty good pace while keeping the characters somewhat interesting. To be honest, the personality of the first few characters to get killed is not all that important in the way that they are fodder for the game; they are gore waiting to happen. The characters are all a bit fleshed out at the start, during a house party, but not of them are particularly charming at that point. Most of them feel like annoying little brats at the start, but once the game really starts, their personalities show a bit more and quickly the viewer ends up picking a favorite to see through to the end.

Playing these characters are a group of young actors that some will have seen in other films but most won’t recognize. That being said, they play their not-exactly-lovable characters rather well here. Actress Victoria Diamond gives what may be the shining performance of the bunch. Her screen presence is fantastic and she goes for it in all of her scenes, not hesitating and giving a performance where she is not quite likable, but she clearly doesn’t care. Giving another strong performance is Thomas Vallieres as Matthew. He’s interesting to watch and after this and Morning After, he’s one to keep an eye on.

The film’s central interests here are the special effects. At time grotesque and at times just about perfect, they are done in a way that shows talent and knowledge while also being gross and bloody good. The special effects team led by supervisors Jean-Mathieu Bérubé and Carlo Harrietha and the visual effects team at Alchemy 24 so fantastic work here. Some of it is grotesque, some of it is a bit more subtle, but all of it is very well done. The use of practical effects adds a bit of old school charm to the kills and the head explosions that are numerous and rather epic in scale.

There is also an animated section in this film which is done in a way that adds interest visually and from a story standpoint. This sequence uses one of Quebec’s cheesiest love songs by Les B.B., a pop band from the 90s that has not really stopped being popular but whose popularity seems more nostalgic than anything else at this point. The use of their song is surprising and interesting. It does bring a bit of giggles for those who know it and know who they are, while bringing others this oddly cheesy romantic interlude.

Game of Death has a title everyone who loves movies knows which seems like an odd move, but it works in terms of the game in the film which is of death. The film itself is entertaining and has more gore than most recent horror films that claimed to be gory. It’s not particularly scary or deep, but the deaths are entertaining and the idea of kill to avoid death is something that is interesting and could be explored in a thousand different ways. Game of Death is one of those films that would be a great choice for a party film, it’s a fun film perfect to watch as a group.