The Bunker Game (2022) poster

The Bunker Game (2022)


Italy/France. 2022.


Director – Roberto Zazzara, Screenplay – Francesca Forristal, Davide Orsini, K.T. Roberts & Roberto Zazzara, Story – Manuela Cacciamani, Davide Orsini & Roberto Zazzara, Producers – Jad Ben Ammar & Leo Maidenberg, Photography – Marco Graziaplena, Music – Umberto Smerilli, Visual Effects Supervisor – Davide Leone, Visual Effects – EDI (Supervisor – Gaia Bussolati), Special Effects Supervisors – Marco Corridori, Angelo Mirra & Giulio Mirra, Art Direction – Marcello Di Carlo. Production Company – Eagle Pictures/Place du Marche Productions/Be Cool Productions.


Gaia Weiss (Laura), Mark Ryder (Harry), Amina Ben Small (Yasmine), Felice Jankell (Robin), Laurenzo Richelmy (Gregorio), Makita Samba (Marcus), Tudor Istodor (Andrej), Serena de Ferrari (Clara), Lea Rostain (Jenny)


A group of LARPers (live-action role-players) are participating in an elaborate simulation of an alternate history world – one where the Nazis won World War II but were forced to retreat into a bunker after nuclear war broke out above ground. Laura is sleeping with the game’s designer Gregorio but he seems to be flirting with all the other women. As the bunker is affected by power fluctuations, everybody is ordered out on grounds of safety. However, Gregorio does not come out with them. Laura and a handful of others return looking for him. They then find that they are locked into the bunker. As they search for Gregorio and a way out, they become aware there is a supernatural force in there with them that is killing people.

LARPing (or live-action role-playing) is an outgrowth from standard role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons (1974). Standard role-playing games are played indoors with drawn maps and using dice and charts to determine outcomes of combat and spells. From the 1980s onwards and the late 1990s in particular, live-action versions of these have become popular with players dressing up in costume, using disused buildings or open-air venues, and conducting combat using foam or plastic weapons, smoke bombs for magic spells and so on. LARPs have ranged between amateur fan weekends to large-scale commercial games, with some gaming companies even producing systems and modules for live-action use.

The main problem I began to immediately have with The Bunker Game is that the LARP that the film gives us is way too complicated. The one we have here involves an Alternate History version of Nazi Germany where people are living in a totalitarian regime and have located underground. In reality, most LARPs involve people in homemade costumes bashing wooden swords around in disused tunnels; the budget the LARP here seems to operate on is more akin to that of a medium-budget film with elaborate costuming and props authentic to the era.

The LARPers in the bunker in The Bunker Game (2022)
The LARPers in the bunker

Moreover, a LARP usually has a small coterie of characters in clearcut roles with a well-defined objective. It is exactly the same as a standard role-playing game – party with various skills come together, enter a dungeon or some such and fight assorted monsters to get the treasure. Here you get a scenario where you are unable to tell the difference between who is a player character and who is an NPC. There is no clearcut goal as to what the characters are doing in the scenario such as joining a rebellion to overthrow a corrupt regime.

All of that said, The Bunker Game is not that concerned about the LARP – the LARP is only there in the first few scenes and the bulk of the film takes place in the aftermath in the abandoned bunker and is essentially a Ghost Story. Most of this passes by adequately. The bunker makes for quite an atmospheric location and this is well lit and photographed. That said, none of the despatches end up being that memorable – there is a rather silly one where Tudor Istodor is overcome in a cupboard filled with gas masks. The film reaches a reasonable ending that comes together in a murder mystery/Supernatural Retribution plot.

The Bunker Game was the first full-length film for Italian director Roberto Zazzara who has elsewhere made several short films and documentaries, as well as worked as a cinematographer.

Trailer here

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