Directors/Creators – Sebastien Landry & Laurence Baz Morais, Screenplay – Edouard Bond, Sebastian Landry & Laurence Baz Morais, Adaptation – Philip Kalin-Hajdu, Producers – Mathias Bernard, Philip Kalin-Hajdu & Pierre-Alexander Bouchard, Photography – SPG, Music – Julien Mineau, Visual Effects – Alchemy 24, Visual Effects Supervisor – Jean-Francois Ferland, Special Effects – Blood Brothers (Jean-Mathieu Berube & Carlo Harrietha), Makeup Effects – Remy Couture, Production Design – Susan MacQuarrie. Production Company – Blackpills/Rockzeline Wild Studio/La Guerilla.
Sam Earle (Tom), Victoria Diamond (Beth), Emelia Hellman (Ashley), Erniel Baez D (Tyler), Catherine Saindon (Mary-Anne), Nick Serino (Kenny), Thomas Vallieres (Matthew), Jane Hackett (Marilyn), Steve Godin (Neighbour), Neve LeBlanc (Samantha)
Seven young people are partying alone at a house. They discover the boardgame called Game of Death and decide to play it. Thinking it is just a regular game, they do not take seriously the rules where it tells them they must agree to kill a select number of people. The digital readout on the game then announces that they have to kill 24 people. Ignoring this, they return to partying only for the head of one of the guys to explode. The digital counter goes down one and they realise it means they actually have to kill 23 other people. This places them on a crazed journey where they begin shooting random strangers at the same time as members of the group have their heads explode. Others of the group try to find a way to stop the game.
Blackpills is a French film studio that announces that they “produce premium scripted content for young adult and mobile devices.” This mostly consists of tv series but also includes the odd film such as the Quebec-shot slasher film Aquaslash (2019). Game of Death comes from Sebastien Landry and Laurence Baz Morais who had previously made short films and worked in music video.
There have been a number of films in recent years based around the idea of standard Games that have deadly consequences for the users. These have ranged from those based on existing party games – Would You Rather (2012), Truth or Dare (2018), Ready or Not (2019), Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022) – to those centred around fictional games as in The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond (2009) and here.
Game of Death hooks you from the start wherein a group of teens abruptly find they are required to kill a specified number of people. The synopsis misleadingly gives the impression that if they don’t do this, their heads will explode – this does happen at various intervals, although there is no clear explanation for why and when it does. For that matter, there is no explanation given for the nature of the game – it just is a Cursed Object.
As with Blackpills content, the film is very much pitched to a teenage demographic. The group are self-centred and unlikeable – on the other hand, the scenes of them horsing around and partying are exactly them behaving like real teenagers. This is soon abruptly overturned as without warning the head of one of the group explodes. From that point on, the film plunges into a wild, gore-drenched ride with bodies being shot, heads blown off, run over and the likes.
The issue I would have with the film is that as soon as it hits its gore-drenched stride, which has undeniable visceral momentum, this proves to be all that the filmmakers have in their arsenal. Some drama is achieved through some of the teens deciding that they shouldn’t be killing people and trying to stop the others (although not offering any particular other solution about how to do so).
The film is not without its absurdities – like the forest ranger who goes into action seeming to think she is a police officer carrying a loaded shotgun; or the scene where said shotgun is fired and then the camera point-of-view follows a bullet through the air as it impacts with someone’s head. In another ridiculous, entirely random move, for several minutes the screen breaks up into graphics that make it look like a videogame.
Game of Death should not be confused with the Bruce Lee martial arts film Game of Death (1978) or A Game of Death (1945), an adaptation of The Most Dangerous Game (1924).