Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Fantasia 2017: Game of Death

Note: I'm going to be reviewing several movies screening at the Fantasia Film Festival up in Montreal, which runs from July 13th through August 2nd this year! You can find out more info about Fantasia at the link - the fest, which focuses on international genre cinema of all stripes, just turned 21 and is screening dozens and dozens of movies this year. Here's my thoughts on one of them!

The millennials just want to have fun. They lounge around the pool, pretty glistening things, documenting their exuberant inanity on social media - smoking dope and making with the oral sex they're much like the many teenagers we've seen come and go (emphasis on go) in horror movies since time immemorial. 

And just like the stars of Sorority House Massacre or The Dorm That Dripped Blood didn't know they were in the middle of a "Sorority House Massacre" or living inside of a "Dorm That Dripped Blood" these young folks here are sadly living their little party-ready lives unaware that they're about to play the, dun dun dun, Game of Death. Sucks to be them.

Pulled out from the shelves of a dusty room at a stranger's house they find it - a lovingly dated (circa 80s/90s because that's what "dated" means now) electronic contraption a la Simon Says. The so-called "Game of Death" is too good to pass up, and so they play. The game has the cynically disaffected teens press their communal forefingers on a buzzer, and... well I won't ruin the surprise for you. Just picture Jumanji meets Battle Royale (now there's a sales pitch to get the right producer excited) and you're on the right track.

Game of Death takes it early cues from its characters - there's a lot of self-indulgent selfie footage - and I was worried in the first act that absent any root-for-able folks this might be nothing more than another game of millennial whack-a-mole. But once it gets going and the timer's ticking and the teenagers are forced to make their great big gnarly choices the movie spins off in unexpected and interesting directions that I didn't see coming - it's not nearly as dumb as it comes on.

And its style similarly gathers momentum - it just gets prettier and more visually creative as it steamrolls along (the setting of the third act really lets the filmmakers run free), and there's a gleefully nasty slash goofy animated sequence at the mid-point reminiscent of vintage video-game graphics that got me grinning but good. And speaking of the 1980s - if practical effects are your bag then Game of Death has got reach-out-and-touch-it viscera to spare. You can practically feel the intestines squeak between your fingers.
Game of Death was directed by Sebastien Landry and Laurence Morais-Lagace, and was produced by La Guerrilla (Montreal), Rockzeline (Paris) and Blackpills (Paris).

And stay tuned for more Fantasia coverage!

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